History-making Saints kicker Tom Dempsey dies from coronavirus crisis

In this Nov. 8, 1970 file photo, New Orleans Saints' Tom Dempsey (19), who is missing a hand...
In this Nov. 8, 1970 file photo, New Orleans Saints' Tom Dempsey (19), who is missing a hand and part of his right foot, moves up to kick a 63-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions in New Orleans. (Source: AP Photo/File)(GIM)
Published: Apr. 5, 2020 at 7:12 AM CDT
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Legendary New Orleans Saints place kicker Tom Dempsey died Saturday night after a battle with COVID-19. He was 73.

It is unknown what the cause of death was - coronavirus has not been ruled out. However, the Saints Hall of Fame kicker recently tested positive.

Dempsey is best known for kicking a record-setting 63-yard field goal with no toes on his right foot.

Signed by the Saints in 1969 as an undrafted kicker out of Palomar College, the Milwaukee, Wis., native quickly proved he belonged in the NFL, being named to the Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro his rookie year. The following season saw Dempsey make the most memorable kick of his career.

On Nov. 8, 1970, the Saints trailed the Detroit Lions 17-16 at Tulane Stadium. With time expiring, Dempsey made a 63-yard field goal with room to spare, setting an NFL record for the longest field goal and giving the Saints a breathtaking 19-17 walk-off victory.

“It was one of those games, where, I think people had lost hope,” said current Saints stadium public address announcer Mark Romig. “Dempsey lines up for this world record-setting field goal, and everyone is just scratching their heads, ‘Sure, why not?’”

“There were so many people who had left the stadium that missed it,” said Mark’s father Jerry Romig, who was in his second season as the Saints PA announcer in 1970. “I made certain that they heard me say, ‘It’s good!’ And I kept screaming into that microphone, ‘It’s good! It’s good!’”

Dempsey’s 63-yarder was the NFL’s longest made field goal until 1998, when it was equaled by Jason Elam. It was again tied by Sebastian Janikowski in 2011, and David Akers in 2012, before finally being broken by a yard in 2013 by Matt Prater.

Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are extended to Carlene and the entire Dempsey family on the passing of their dear Tom. 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.”

Dempsey’s family said he was diagnosed with coronavirus in late March. The Saints kicker lived at the Lambeth House assisted living center where 15 people have died from COVID-19.

Dempsey is survived by his wife Carlene, a teacher and New Orleans native, and their children Ashley and Toby and Meghan.

Funeral arrangements have not been set.

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