Tom Dempsey

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Tom Dempsey
No. 19, 10, 23, 6
Personal information
Born: (1947-01-12) January 12, 1947 (age 73)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High school:Encinitas (CA) San Dieguito
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
PAT:252/282 (89.4%)
FG:159/258 (61.6%)
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Thomas John Dempsey (born January 12, 1947) is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League (NFL) 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 which was becoming more and more widely used during his career, Dempsey's kicking style was the standard (of the day) straight-toe style.

NFL career[edit]

Dempsey is most widely known for kicking a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 19–17 win over the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.[1] Prior to 1974, the goal posts in the NFL were on the goal lines instead of the end lines, and a missed field goal was treated the same as a punt: if it missed, it was a touchback unless it landed in the field of play and was returned. With time running out in the game, the Saints attempted a field goal 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 dismal season. For many years, it was believed that Saints quarterback Billy Kilmer was the holder of that historic kick, but photos of that day, as well as radio and television calls, revealed that Scarpati was actually the holder.[2]

With the kick, Dempsey broke Bert Rechichar's NFL record for longest field goal by seven yards. That record was equaled by Jason Elam in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski in 2011, David Akers in 2012, Graham Gano in 2018, and Brett Maher in 2019. On December 8, 2013, Matt Prater topped Dempsey's mark by hitting a 64-yard field goal.

Dempsey's special kicking shoe

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."[3][4] Additionally, when an analysis of his kick was carried out by ESPN Sport Science, it was found that his modified shoe had offered him no advantage – in fact, it was found that the smaller contact area could have reduced, not increased, the margin for error.[5]

The league made two rule changes in the subsequent years to discourage further long field goal attempts. The first was in 1974, which moved the goal posts from the goal line to the back of the end zone (adding ten yards to the kick distance) and awarded the ball to the defense on a missed kick at the spot where the ball was snapped (this changed in 1994 to the spot of the kick). Then, 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."[6][7]

Career regular season statistics[edit]

Career high/best bolded

Post career[edit]

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.[8]

In January 2013, Dempsey revealed he is suffering from dementia. Psychiatrist Daniel Amen made the initial diagnosis of damage to Dempsey's brain. During medical examinations and scans, Amen found three holes in the brain, along with other damage.[9]

In March 30, 2020, Dempsey tested positive for Covid-19, also known as Coronavirus.[10]


  1. ^ Rovin, Jeff (1984). In Search of Trivia (1 ed.). New York: Penguin Group. pp. 408. ISBN 0-451-16250-1.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Remembering "The Kick"". Avoyelles Journal, Bunkie, Record, Marksville Weekly. Archived from the original on January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ "World's Longest Field Goal". ESPN Sport's Science.
  6. ^ "Rules of the Name, or How the Emmitt Rule Became the Emmitt Rule,". Archived from the original on December 11, 2007. Professional Football Researchers Association
  7. ^ "Official NFL Rulebook 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 16, 2010. See Rule 5, Section 3, Article 3 Paragraph (g)
  8. ^ Crouse, Karen. "A Favorite Saint," The New York Times, Saturday, January 30, 2010.
  9. ^ Dykes, Brett Michael (January 27, 2013). "For former kicker, the price of fearlessness". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Triplett, Mike (March 30, 2020). "Famed New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey has coronavirus". ESPN. Retrieved March 31, 2020.

External links[edit]