Garabed Sarkis "Garo" Yepremian (born June 2, 1944) is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a career that spanned from 1966 to 1981.
Yepremian was born in Larnaca, Cyprus to Armenian parents. Aged 16, he moved to London with the hope of someday attending college. He later moved to Indianapolis, Indiana hoping to earn a college scholarship playing football. Yepremian had no prior knowledge of American football, and his brief experience as a professional soccer player prevented him from playing college football per NCAA rules. Nevertheless, he continued to practice his kicking at Butler University, where he was discovered and signed by the Detroit Lions.
In his rookie year, he broke a record by kicking six field goals in a single game for the Lions against the Minnesota Vikings. That record was broken the next season by the St. Louis Cardinals' Jim Bakken, who kicked seven field goals in a game.
During one of his early games with the Lions, they were losing but scored a touchdown in the last 10 seconds of the game. Yepremian was sent in to kick the extra point, and he was so excited after converting the point that he went running off the field with his arms raised up celebrating.
His teammate Alex Karras asked him in Greek, since Yepremian barely spoke any English back then, "What the hell are you celebrating?" Yepremian replied with the catch phrase made famous on the Johnny Carson show "I keek a touchdown" ().
In 1968, Yepremian left football to enlist in the U.S. Army. The Lions chose not to re-sign him when he returned the following year, and he sat out the 1969 season.
In 1970, Yepremian earned a spot on the Dolphins roster. He led the league in points with 117 in 1971. He was a key member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins unbeaten team and appeared in three Super Bowls (VI, VII and VIII).
Yepremian is best known for two feats — one famous, one infamous. In a divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas 1971, he kicked a 37-yard field goal 7 minutes and 40 seconds into double overtime, ending the longest game in NFL history and sending the Dolphins to the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Colts (which the Dolphins won to go on to Super Bowl VI).
Despite all of Yepremian's success, many people remember him for an embarrassing incident in Super Bowl VII. With his team leading the Washington Redskins 14-0, Yepremian was sent on to the field to kick a field goal with slightly more than two minutes left, which would have put the game out of reach. The field goal attempt was blocked by Bill Brundige, and Yepremian managed to get to the ball before any other player did. Instead of just falling on the ball to preserve the Dolphins' 14-0 lead, he picked it up and frantically attempted to throw a pass. The ball slipped from his hands and went straight up in the air. Yepremian then batted it back up in the air, and it went right into the arms of his former Lions teammate, Redskins cornerback Mike Bass, who returned it for a touchdown. The Dolphins managed to hold on to win, 14-7 to preserve their perfect season.
In the 1974 Pro Bowl Yepremian kicked five field goals to lead the AFC to a win, and was voted Most Valuable Player in that game. He was elected to another Pro Bowl in 1979 after a season in which he kicked twenty consecutive field goals without a miss.
Over his career, Yepremian was successful on 210 of 313 field goals and 444 of 464 extra points for a total of 1,074 points. He led the league in field-goal accuracy three times.
Although he was voted Kicker of the Decade (over Jan Stenerud) by both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and by Sports Illustrated between 1970 and 1980, Garo has not yet been voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite being nominated recently (Stenerud was elected in 1991).
Garo has also been named to Sports Illustrated’s “Dr. Z’s All Decade 1970s Team."
In 1981, Garo was elected to the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.
Yepremian is currently a motivational speaker and the author of several books including an autobiography titled I Keek a Touchdown, published in 1995. He is also the Founder & CEO of The Garo Yepremian Foundation for Brain Tumor Research.
Reebok featured Garo Yepremian and his teammates from the 1972 Dolphins team in a commercial which aired during Super Bowl XLII. The commercial can be seen at http://www.rbk.com/us/perfectville/