Ask any sports fan who was alive in 1977 and they can remember it: the historic 63-yard field goal that was kicked by Tom Dempsey. Although football kickers and punters are typically the butt of many jokes among sportscasters and reporters, nobody doubts the prowess of Dempsey – and his trusty orthotic device.
The new American pastime
I am an American, so of course I am a fan of football. While watching a game last Sunday, (bloody mary in one hand and remote in the other) I overheard the announcers talking about a kicker from the 1970s that still holds the record for the longest field goal. As if this statistic isn't impressive enough, Dempsey may also hold the record for being the bravest NFL kicker in the history of the sport: He was born with a clubbed foot.
I've watched a lot of football this fall, and I can assure you that the pressure for fellas to have perfect feet on the gridiron is almost as important as ladies on the catwalk. Pair that with the fact that innovations in sports medicine and technology has become a mainstay in the NFL, and you can see how truly astounding it is that Dempsey has held this record for so long, especially with a foot ailment.
One for the record books
Like bunions, a clubbed foot is a medical condition that is genetic. Unlike bunions, this foot problem is more common with men than women. Dempsey's story is truly unique, as most people born with a clubbed foot have great difficulty performing even simple tasks like walking, according to the Mayo Clinic. Many people born with this condition are usually limited in their choice of orthotic devices – but that wasn't the case for Dempsey.
According the New York Daily News, the kicker was a natural athlete, despite his clubbed foot. Although he started out as a defensive tackle, the coach of the New Orleans Saints wisely instructed Dempsey to become the team's kicker, and the rest is history.
There is a bit of controversy surrounding his orthotic device. Dissenters claim that his special shoe (which is now currently on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame) gave him an unfair advantage on the gridiron. I say let it go – people with foot problems have enough to deal with, am I right?