Tom Dempsey, Saints Legend, Dead at 73 After Coronavirus Spreads to His Retirement Home

Former New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey, who once set an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal, died on Saturday night after contracting COVID-19. He was 73 years old at the time of his death. NOLA.com first announced the news, and the New Orleans Saints confirmed it with a statement on Sunday morning.

"Our thoughts and prayers are extended to Carlene and the entire Dempsey family on the passing of their dear Tom," Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. "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 had battled Alzheimer's and dementia since 2013, and he tested positive for the coronavirus last month. He returned to his assisted living facility, but he was placed in hospice care after his oxygen levels dropped on Wednesday. Dempsey is survived by his wife Carlene and their children Ashley, Toby and Meghan.

Originally signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted rookie out of Palomar College, Dempsey drew immediate attention while leading the league with 41 field goal attempts and a long of 53 yards. He was nominated to the Pro Bowl and was named First-Team All-Pro.

Dempsey did not have toes on his right foot and fingers on his right hand due to a birth defect, but he still achieved success in the NFL. He used a straight-ahead kicking style and wore a custom-made shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. Some of his critics felt that this gave him an advantage on the football field, but Dempsey vehemently disagreed.

"Unfair, eh? How about you try kicking a 63-yard field goal to win it with two seconds left and you're wearing a square shoe, oh yeah, and no toes either," Dempsey responded, per the Saints.

The record-setting kicker started his career with the Saints, but he spent time with four other teams. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles, L.A. Rams, Houston Oilers, and Buffalo Bills. However, he always remained a lifelong Saints fan and returned to the New Orleans area following his retirement.

0comments

(Photo Credit: Diamond Images/Getty Images)