Former New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey, who famously made a 63-yard field goal in 1970 despite being born without toes on his right kicking foot, has died due to complications of the coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 73.
Ashley Dempsey said Sunday that her father tested positive for the coronavirus a little more than a week ago.
Dempsey had been battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He was a resident at the Lambeth House senior living center in New Orleans, which has been hit hard by the virus. More than 50 residents have been affected, according to NOLA.com.
The Orleans Parish coroner has yet to release an official cause of death.
Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement Sunday morning on Dempsey’s death.
“The New Orleans Saints family is deeply saddened and heartbroken at this most difficult time. Tom’s life spoke directly to the power of the human spirit and exemplified his resolute determination to not allow setbacks to impede following his dreams and aspirations. He exemplified the same fight and fortitude in recent years as he battled valiantly against illnesses but never wavered and kept his trademark sense of humor. He holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Saints family,” she said.
Thoughts and prayers with the Dempsey family. Legend! ⚜️ https://t.co/k28KtbXjZF
— Wil Lutz (@wil_lutz5) April 5, 2020
Dempsey made his legendary 63-yard field goal in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium as the Saints came from behind to beat the Detroit Lions 19-17 in the final seconds. It was the longest kick in NFL history for 28 years until the Denver Broncos‘ Jason Elam matched it in 1998. The Broncos’ Matt Prater broke the record with a 64-yarder in 2013.
The Saints’ extended family has been affected in multiple ways by the coronavirus. Coach Sean Payton tested positive last month before saying he was cleared last week. Also, Bobby Hebert Sr., the father of former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, died last week at the age of 81 after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Dempsey, who signed with the Saints after going undrafted out of Palomar College in San Marcos, California, in 1969, also played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills before retiring in 1979. He made the Pro Bowl and was named a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season with the Saints.
Inducted as a member of the Saints’ Hall of Fame in 1989, Dempsey finished with a 61.6 percentage on field goals, 89.4 percent on extra points.
The modified shoe he kicked with is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in an exhibit that chronicles the first century of professional football.