New Orleans Saints: Tom Dempsey’s memory will live on

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Former New Orleans Saints’ kicker Tom Dempsey has passed away, but his memory will live forever in the hearts of fans everywhere.

“Here’s the snap, the ball is down. Dempsey kicks, it’s on the way. It is… good! It’s good! It’s good! The Saints have won! The Saints have won! The stadium is wild! Dempsey has been mobbed! The time has run out, the Saints have won, 19-17! Dempsey with a 63-yard field goal!”

That famous commentary from Saints radio personality Al Wester in 1970 echoes throughout the memories of longtime fans of the New Orleans Saints.

They know that since the team’s first season in 1967, the franchise had just a few shining moments until the club started winning in 1987.

Not too long after John Gilliam’s 94-yard kickoff return on the team’s first official NFL play against the Los Angeles Rams at Tulane Stadium, another player by the name of Tom Dempsey provided the Big Easy with another fantastic spectacle.

On Nov. 8, 1970, the Saints hosted the Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium and seemed to be on the losing end yet again, typical for an expansion franchise.

The Lions led 17-16 as Detroit made an 18-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to play in the game and kicked off to New Orleans.

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Al Dodd fielded the kick and brought it to the 28-yard line with just eight seconds left, and on the next play, quarterback Billy Kilmer passed to Dodd along the Saints’ sideline to the 45-yard line, stopping the clock with two seconds remaining.

Then kicker Tom Dempsey ran onto the field with a chance to steal the win from the Lions, as he aimed to make a 63-yard field goal attempt.

At this time, uprights in the NFL were placed in a similar fashion to the CFL and rugby, sitting on the goal line instead of the back of the end zone, so teams technically didn’t need to drive as far to get in field goal position.

Safety Joe Scarpati was the holder and was ready for Dempsey to approach the kick in a straight-on or toe-kick fashion, with his specially made shoe that accommodated for his missing toes. Yes, a kicker without toes on his right foot or fingers on his right hand.

The rest was explained by Wester as Dempsey made the kick with not much room for error, and the Saints defeated the Lions 19-17.

Even though he spent just two seasons in New Orleans, Dempsey was beloved by the Saints’ fanbase and organization and ended up being inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

Dempsey ended up contracting COVID-19, or the coronavirus, and passed away at 73, as the virus, or complicating due to having it, seems to make older people and people with underlying conditions more vulnerable to serious illness.

His story proves that anyone can achieve something great or overcome any obstacle, no matter what odds are stacked against him or her or what others think.

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Dempsey’s impact on the team will last forever as fans re-tell his story about his NFL career and his famous “Kick Heard ‘Round the Crescent City” in 1970.