Saturday evening, April 4, former larger-than-life National Football League (NFL) Placekicker Tom Dempsey passed away at the age of 73 due to complications from COVID-19 (coronavirus) in New Orleans. After being one of the 15 members of the senior assistance living facility that tested positive for COVID-19 on March 30, the kicker died.
In an eleven year career from 1969-79 that was divided among 5 NFL teams, Dempsey held the record for the longest field goal of 63 yards, which he kicked for the New Orleans Saints in a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970 at the old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. This record setting kick lasted for 43 years until the Denver Broncos Placekicker Matt Prater broke the record on December 8, 2013 for 64 yards.
At nearly 6’3, 260 pounds, Dempsey was born without the toes on his right foot or any fingers on his hand, making his kicking style unique and flat-footed. Despite the discussion of the kicker having an advantage from kicking flat-footed, several scientific experts ruled there was no advantage to this style. Dempsey and Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano were the only players to make game winning field goals from this distance, as Gano tied the distance in 2018.
One segment added in 1977, the NFL changed a rule informally known as the “Tom Dempsey Rule”, that “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.”
Even with a rule change, Dempsey made over 150 field goals during his career, had a 61.5% of made kicks, earned a Pro Bowl birth, and was chosen to the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Additionally, he never had any kicks blocked.
The former kicker leaves behind a wife; Carlene and many family members.
(Photos by Getty & AP, References NFL Archive)