Record-setting New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey has died due to complications of the coronavirus, his family told NOLA.com. He was 73.
The outlet reported Dempsey tested positive for COVID-19 on March 25. He also had been battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at a senior living facility in New Orleans.
“Our thoughts and prayers are extended to (wife) Carlene and the entire Dempsey family on the passing of their dear Tom,” Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement on Sunday morning. “The New Orleans Saints family is deeply saddened and heartbroken at this most difficult time.”
Dempsey, who was born without fingers on his right hand and without toes on his right kicking foot, set a then-NFL record with a 63-yard field goal on Nov. 8, 1970. The kick at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans lifted the Saints to a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions.
The record was first matched by the Denver Broncos’ Jason Elam in 1998 and later broken by Denver’s Matt Prater with a 64-yarder in 2013.
“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,” Benson said in a statement. “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 was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 1989. The modified shoe he kicked with is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dempsey played 11 NFL seasons with the Saints (1969-70), Philadelphia Eagles (1971-74), Los Angeles Rams (1975-76), Houston Oilers (1977) and Buffalo Bills (1978-79).
He made 159 of 258 field goals and 252 of 282 extra points in 127 games, and earned a Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro honors as a rookie in 1969.
–Field Level Media