Former NFL kicker Garo Yepremian, who was part of the Miami Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 team and best remembered for his infamous Super Bowl blunder, died Friday of cancer. He was 70.
Yepremian, who played 14 seasons in the NFL and won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins, died at a hospital in Media, Penn. He was diagnosed with cancer in May 2014, his wife, Maritza, told the Associated Press.
A native of Cyprus, Yepremian emigrated to the United States with his brother at the age of 22. After watching an NFL game on television, he became convinced he could kick for an NFL team.
The “soccer-style” kicker made his debut with the Detroit Lions in 1966, playing in the first football game he ever attended. He set a league record during his rookie season when he kicked six field goals in a game against the Minnesota Vikings. He joined the Dolphins in 1970 and played a role in the team’s rise to prominence under coach Don Shula in the early part of the decade.
Yepremian ended the longest game in NFL history when he kicked a 37-yard field goal in double overtime of a playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas Day in 1971.
Still, his most remembered moment came during Super Bowl VII in 1973 when he put the Dolphins’ undefeated record in jeopardy. With Miami leading, 14-0, the Washington Redskins blocked a field goal attempt by Yepremian, who then picked up the ball and tried to throw it, but fumbled. Washington’s Mike Bass caught the ball and ran it 49 yards for a touchdown.
The Dolphins went on to win, 14-7, at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, but the play continued to haunt Yepremian for the rest of his life.
“Every airport you go to, people point to you and say, ‘Here’s the guy who screwed up in the Super Bowl,'” Yepremian said in a 2007 interview. “After a while it bothers you. If it was anybody else he would go crazy, but fortunately I’m a happy-go-lucky guy.”
Yepremian was a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the Dolphins and led the NFL in field-goal accuracy three times. He left Miami after the 1978 season and had stints with the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before retiring after the 1981 season.
Private funeral arrangements are pending. A viewing is planned Wednesday in Wynnewood, Penn.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
SOURCE: AUSTIN KNOBLAUCH
The Los Angeles Times