Legendary Saints Kicker Tom Dempsey Dies After Contracting Coronavirus

Ross Houston
April 5, 2020

Dempsey - who overcame astronomical odds to establish what was then considered a virtually unbeatable record - contracted the virus in March during an outbreak at the Lambeth House retirement home in Uptown New Orleans. The record has since been matched by 5 kickers and it was shattered - actually more like broken - by Denver Bronco kicker Matt Prater in 2013, when he scored a field goal from 64 yards.

Dempsey had been battling myriad health problems in recent years, including Alzheimer's and dementia.

Dempsey joined the Eagles in 1971 after he struggled in the preseason following the historic kick with the Saints. "The New Orleans Saints family is deeply saddened and heartbroken at this most hard time", Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. The previous long before Dempsey's field goal was 56 yards. The field goal attempt was good!


On that day in 1970, Dempsey had made three of four field goals when a coach said, using his very bad locker room nickname, "Tell Stumpy to get ready", he recalled in a 2010 interview with ESPN's Seth Wickersham.

Dempsey spent 11 seasons in the NFL: His first two seasons were with New Orleans (1969-70), the next four with Philadelphia, then two with the Los Angeles Rams, one with the Houston Oilers and the final two with Buffalo. "He holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Saints family".

Tex Schramm, a Dallas Cowboys executive and chairman of the NFL's competition committee, compared Dempsey's shoe to "the head of a golf club with a sledgehammer surface", and in 1977 the National Football League passed "the Dempsey rule", which required kickers' shoes to have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe. He is survived by his wife, Carlene, three children - Ashley, Toby, and Meghan - and three grandchildren.


"They thought Tom had no chance", Kilmer said.

Dempsey had an extraordinary career.

But Dempsey ended up carried off the field on the shoulders of teammates and recalled spending all night at a Bourbon Street bar, celebrating.


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.

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