Former NFL placekicker Tom Dempsey, who set an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in 1970, died Saturday from complications from the coronavirus, his family said. He was 73.
Dempsey contracted COVID-19 in March during an outbreak at a New Orleans retirement home, NOLA.com reported. He is one of 15 residents at the home to die from the virus.
Tom Dempsey made a 63-yard field goal! Sadly, he is now gone because of COVID-19. Rest In Peace, TD. pic.twitter.com/rvLqJppk4s— Dinn Mann (@mooseoutfront) April 5, 2020
Dempsey, who was born without fingers on his right hand, wore a small, flat shoe on his kicking foot, the website reported. That shoe is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Dempsey’s record-setting field goal, on the last play of the game against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 8, 1970, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, helped the Saints rally to a 19-17 victory. His field goal beat the previous mark by seven yards.
“They called down and said, ‘Tell Stumpy (his nickname) to get ready. We’re going to kick a long field goal.’ I don’t think they planned on making it a 63-yard field goal,” Dempsey told WWL-TV in a 2010 interview.
“I had confidence I could kick the ball 62 yards,” Dempsey said after the game in 1970, “But I was wondering whether I could kick it straight 62 or 63 yards, whatever it was. You have to kick the ball as hard as you possibly can, but yet try to hit it square and that’s kind of a hard job really.”
Tom Dempsey, the historic New Orleans Saints placekicker, died tonight after a battle with the novel coronavirus. He was 73.— Ramon Antonio Vargas (@RVargasAdvocate) April 5, 2020
On the kicker who overcame astronomical odds to set what was once thought to be a virtually unbeatable record | https://t.co/ZdYgHqINak
The kick stood as an NFL record for 43 years. It was tied in 1998 by Jason Elam and also equaled in 2011 by Sebastian Janikowski and David Akers in 2012. It was broken in December 2013 by Matt Prater, who booted a 64-yarder for the Denver Broncos, the Saints said on their website.
Prater’s kick came in the thin air of Denver, in 14-degree weather, WWL reported.
When his daughter, Ashley Dempsey, told Dempsey that his record had finally been eclipsed, the former kicker noted that it “Must have been a heckuva kick," NOLA.com reported.
Dempsey played 11 seasons in the NFL, joining the Saints in 1969. He also played for the Philadelphia Eagles (1971-1974), Los Angeles Rams (1975-1976), Houston Oilers (1977) and Buffalo Bills (1978-1979). He made 159 out of 258 field goals attempted during his career. He was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1989.
Funeral arrangements are pending, WVUE reported.