On November 8, 1970, an unlikely hero booted an unlikely field goal to propel his team to an unlikely victory. That man’s name was Tom Dempsey, a 22-year-old kicker for the New Orleans Saints who was born without four fingers on his right hand and half of his right foot. The stage was set for Dempsey’s dramatic kick shortly after his counterpart for the opposing Detroit Lions had made an 18-yarder to give his team a 17-16 lead with 11 seconds left in the game. The ensuing kickoff return and a short reception by Al Dodd left New Orleans with little hope of victory. Now with only 2 seconds remaining, Tom found himself trotting out to the Saints’ 37 yardline to attempt what was thought to be impossible - a 63-yard field goal.
Somehow on this day “Stumpy”, as his coach affectionately called him, managed to launch the pigskin farther with half a foot than any full-footed kicker ever had! Fortunately for Dempsey, this kick was 10 yards shorter than it would be by modern standards. Sometime in the 41 years that have followed Tom Dempsey’s historic boot, the uprights were moved from the front of the end zone to the back, lengthening a kick from the opposing 37 by 10 yards! By no means does this take away from Dempsey’s accomplishment - we just thought we should clarify the distance for anyone thinking of attempting a 73-yarder by mistake.
Dempsey’s feat was matched in 1998 by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos. Keep in mind, however, that Elam’s kick was aided by the thin air of Mile-High Stadium...and his fully-formed foot. Apologies to all you Broncos fans out there, but we’re still gonna embed Dempsey’s kick:
19 Interesting Facts