|Date of birth:||January 12, 1947|
|Place of birth:||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|New Orleans Saints
Los Angeles Rams
Career highlights and awards
|Pro Bowls:||1 (1969)|
|Playing stats at|
Thomas Dempsey is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the New Orleans Saints (1969–1970), Philadelphia Eagles (1971–1974), Los Angeles Rams (1975–1976), Houston Oilers (1977) and Buffalo Bills (1978–1979). He attended high school at San Dieguito High School and played college football at Palomar College. Unlike the "soccer style" approach used by nearly all place kickers today, Dempsey used a straight approach which was the style primarily used to kick the ball during his era.
Dempsey is most widely known for his then NFL record 63-yard field goal, kicked in the final two seconds to give the New Orleans Saints a 19–17 win over the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. This record stood until December 8, 2013, when Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos kicked a 64-yarder against the Tennessee Titans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. It had been equaled three times; on October 25, 1998, by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos against the Jacksonville Jaguars, at Mile High Stadium and on September 12, 2011, by Sebastian Janikowski of the Oakland Raiders against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field (both in Denver), and by David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, on September 9, 2012. In a preseason game in 2002, Ola Kimrin kicked a 65-yard field goal, but as it was a preseason game, it is ineligible for the NFL record. Because Dempsey's record setting field goal came during an era when the goal posts stood on the goal line, rather than at the back line of the end zone ten yards behind the goal line, as they do presently, Dempsey remains the only kicker in the Super Bowl era (since 1967) to make a field goal with the ball spotted further than the opposing team's 45-yard line.
Prior to 1974 the goal posts in the NFL were on the goal lines instead of the end lines. With time running out in the game, the Saints attempted a place kick with holder Joe Scarpati spotting at the Saints' own 37-yard line. The snap from Jackie Burkett was good, and Dempsey nailed the field goal with a couple of feet to spare. The win was one of only two for the Saints in that otherwise-forgettable season. Dempsey's kick shattered the old mark of 56 yards set in 1953 by Colts' kicker Bert Rechichar and his record stood until 2013.
Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand. He wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. This generated controversy about whether such a shoe gave a player an unfair advantage. When reporters would ask him if he thought it was unfair, he said "Unfair eh? How 'bout you try kickin' a 63 yard field goal to win it with 2 seconds left an' yer wearin' a square shoe, oh, yeah and no toes either". Additionally, when an analysis of his kick was carried out by ESPN Sport Science, it was found that his modified shoe offered him no advantage - the smaller contact area could in fact have increased the margin of error. In 1977, the NFL added a rule, informally known as the "Tom Dempsey Rule," that "any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe."
In 1983, Dempsey was inducted into the American Football Association's Semi Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dempsey has since retired from football and currently resides with his wife Carlene, who teaches history at Kehoe-France, a private school in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. His house was flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
|“||The hurricane flooded me out of a lot of memorabilia, but it can't flood out the memories.||”|
—Dempsey on the effects of Hurricane Katrina
- Rovin, Jeff (1984). In Search of Trivia (1 ed.). New York, New York: Penguin Group. p. 408. ISBN 0-451-16250-1.
- Lewis, Michael (October 28, 2007). "The Kick Is Up and It's...A Career-Killer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010., New York Times, October 28, 2007
- "World's Longest Field Goal". ESPN Sport's Science.
- "Rules of the Name, or How the Emmitt Rule Became the Emmitt Rule,". Professional Football Researchers Association
- "Official NFL Rulebook 2006". See Rule 5, Section 3, Article 3 Paragraph (g)
- Crouse, Karen. "A Favorite Saint," The New York Times, Saturday, January 30, 2010.
- "For Former Kicker, the Price of Fearlessness". New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2013.