Coronavirus: Record-setting NFL kicker Tom Dempsey tests positive for COVID-19

Tom Dempsey, who once held the NFL record for the longest field goal conversion, tested positive for coronavirus, his daughter confirmed to Dempsey, who is battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, had symptoms that were mild when he tested positive Saturday. Dempsey, 73, has been residing at a senior living center in New Orleans. Unable to feed himself, the former Pro Bowl kicker has been taken to the nursing care section of the center to help battle his symptoms. 

“His appetite has been good,” Ashley Dempsey said regarding her father’s health. “He’s doing okay…He’s a fighter. he’s been fighting his whole life.” 

The coronavirus has infected more than 50 residents at Lambeth House (the senior center Dempsey resides at) and at least 13 have passed away. Even with the mild symptoms, the senior center has been taking measures with Dempsey’s health. 

Dempsey kicked in the NFL for 11 seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams and Houston Oilers, earning All-Pro honors in 1969 (his rookie year with the Saints). He hit the longest field goal in the league for three consecutive seasons and led the NFL in field goal conversion percentage (70.6%) with the Eagles in 1971. Dempsey still holds the Eagles record with six field goals in a game, accomplished in an 18-17 win over the Oilers in 1973. 

Dempsey held (or shared) the NFL record for the longest field goal for 43 years, a 63-yard last-second kick that led the Saints to a stunning 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970. Jason Elam (1998), Sebastian Janikowski (2011) and David Akers (2012) matched Dempsey’s feat, but Matt Prater broke the record with a 64-yard field goal in 2013. 

Dempsey wore a special shoe to kick because he was born without toes. The special shoe allowed him to swing his leg and drive the ball. The league moved the goalposts back in 1974 (they used to be in the front of the end zone) to discourage long field goals. 

After Dempsey left the Eagles, the NFL added a rule, indicating 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.” This rule is known as the “Tom Dempsey Rule,” which was instituted in 1977. 

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