Thomas John Dempsey (born January 12, 1947 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is a former American football placekicker in the 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 he played college football at Palomar College.
He is most widely known for his 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. This record still stands as of the end of the 2007 regular season. (In a 2002 pre-season game, Ola Kimrin kicked a 65 yard field goal; as a pre-season game, it is ineligible for the record.) The record has also been officially equaled once, by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos on October 25 1998. Elam kicked his field goal in the thin air of Denver's high altitude Mile High Stadium. Dempsey kicked his at New Orleans' Tulane Stadium which was actually situated below sea level. He used a straight approach to kick the ball as opposed to the "soccer style" used by nearly all place kickers today.
Prior to 1974 in the NFL, the goal posts 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 seventeen-year old mark of 56 yards set by Colts' kicker Bert Rechichar. Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot. 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. 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.
Dempsey has since retired from football and currently resides with his wife Carlene, who teaches history at a New Orleans suburban elementary school. His house was flooded by Hurricane Katrina during 2005.