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Tom Dempsey, NFL record-holder for longest field goal, dies from COVID-19

Tom Dempsey was a former San Dieguito High School and Palomar College student. He was 73 years old.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Nov. 22, 1971 file photo, Philadelphia Eagles Tom Dempsey (19) kicks a point after a touch down during the first period on his way to 13 points, during an NFL football game against the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis, Mo. Dempsey, who played in the NFL despite being born without toes on his kicking foot and made a record 63-yard field goal, died late Saturday, April 4, 2020, in New Orleans while struggling with complications from the new coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 73 years old. (AP Photo/File)

SAN DIEGO — Tom Dempsey, the NFL's longtime record holder for longest field goal and a former San Dieguito High School and Palomar College student, has died of complications from the coronavirus at the age of 73.

Dempsey died Saturday night at Lambeth House Retirement Community in New Orleans, his family told The Times-Picayune.

He contracted the virus in March during an outbreak at the retirement home, where at least 15 residents have died after being stricken with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Dempsey was born without fingers on his right hand or toes on his right foot, his kicking foot. He wore a specialized flat shoe during games.

On Nov. 8, 1970, Dempsey kicked a record 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the New Orleans Saints a 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions. It broke the existing NFL record by seven yards.

His record stood until 2013, when Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos kicked a 64-yarder aided by the high altitude in Denver.

New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson said, "Tom's life spoke directly to the power of the human spirit and exemplified his resolute determination to not allow setbacks to impede following his dreams and aspirations."

Dempsey, who was born in Milwaukee, competed in football, wrestling and track and field at Palomar College. He was inducted into the college's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. 


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According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.  

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Know how it spreads:  

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You can find information on disinfecting and cleaning on the CDC's How to Protect Yourself page. 

The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.  

The County of San Diego has made face coverings mandatory for those working with the public including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and similar businesses. 

While officials say these face coverings are not a substitute for practices like social distancing and handwashing, there is evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Officials do not recommend the public use N-95 or surgical masks which are needed by health care workers and first responders. 


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