Former NFL Kicker and New Orleans Saints Hall of Famer, Tom Dempsey passed away at age 73 due to complications from the Coronavirus on April 4th, 2020 He was mainly remembered as a Saints’ kicker who rocketed a game winning 63-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions back in 1970, the longest field goal in NFL history at that time. His record has been tied numerous times, first by Jason Elam in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski in 2011, David Akers in 2012, Graham Gano in 2018 and Brett Maher in 2019. It would be the record for 43 years before then Denver Broncos’ kicker, Matt Prater scored a 64-yarder back in 2013.
Dempsey was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 12th, 1947 with underdeveloped limbs on the right side of his body. He was born without any toes on his right foot and without fingers on his right hand but despite his physical disabilities he persevered to follow his ambition to play in the NFL and became one of the NFL’s best kickers during the decade he played. Dempsey wore a customized shoe on his right foot which was shorter but wider than ordinary football shoes but there was some speculation that his specially designed shoe gave him an unfair advantage but he brushed off the critics. During his NFL career most kickers booted the ball with the laces of their shoes but Dempsey remained old school, straight ahead style which was kicking with their toes. It is truly astonishing he appeared in the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team in his rookie season in 1969 where he made 22 field goals and 33 extra points as well as a 55-yarder which was the league's longest.
After his first two seasons with the Saints, he spent the next 4 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dempsey played solid going 66 - 108 with his longest kick being 52-yards. After the City of Brotherly Love, he traveled across the country to be a member of the Los Angeles Rams for the 1975 and 1976 season. In his first year with the team he went 21 - 26 with a career high of 80.8% kicks made and in the latter, Dempsey and the Rams would have a Super Bowl appearance in their grasp until Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings beat them 24 - 13 in the NFC Championship Game. Dempsey would spend one year with the Houston Oilers going 4 - 6 in just 5 games played. He would spend his last 2 years with the Buffalo Bills going 11 - 17 with 64.7% kicks made. He retired in 1979 after 11 seasons in the NFL with 159 field goals in 258 tries and 252 extra points on 282 attempts.
Sadly, Dempsey has been suffering from dementia since 2012 and contracted the virus at his New Orleans retirement home where 15 other patients have also died from the illness. Despite playing 2 years with the franchise, Dempsey was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 1989. His historic kick on November 8th, 1970 against the Lions, nailing a 63-yarder for a 19 - 17 win remains one of the most unforgettable moments in the history of the Saints and the NFL. Dempsey’s shoe now sits at the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with his story.