The coronavirus pandemic has such a stranglehold on our news pages these days, that other notable news, including sports, sometimes is lost in the process.

The death of former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey last month in New Orleans probably didn’t jar the memories of younger professional football fans, but it did connect with many oldtimers who were a part of the fan base 50 years ago.

Born in our home state of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Dempsey etched an inspiring story in the sports world. On Nov. 8, 1970, Dempsey booted a 63-yard field goal for the New Orleans Saints to defeat the Detroit Lions. The 63-yarder established an NFL record that was printed in the record book for 43 years. Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos broke the mark with a 64-yard field goal in 2013. Prater now plays for the Detroit Lions.

Dempsey was born without four fingers on his right hand, and without toes on his right foot. He refused to allow the handicap from keeping him away from the sport he loved. His first two seasons in the NFL were spent with the New Orleans Saints (1969-70), the next four with Philadelphia, then two with the Los Angeles Rams, one with the Houston Oilers, and the final two with Buffalo. He retired after the 1979 season, capping an 11-year NFL career.

Dempsey was a straight-on kicker with a flat-front shoe. Some opponents complained the special shoe gave him an unfair advantage.

At the time of his famous kick, the Superdome had yet to be built and the Saints played their home games in old University of Tulane Stadium, which was demolished in 1979. Detroit led the Saints 17-16 after a short field goal with 11 seconds left.

New Orleans had no time outs left. The Saints worked the ball to their own 45 with 2 seconds remaining. According to the Associated Press, special teams coach Don Heinrich yelled, “Tell Dempsey to get ready and kick a long one.”

Unfazed, the player with four fingers missing on one hand, and without toes on his right foot trotted on the field and kicked the game-winning field goal — a 63-yarder — as time expired. 

The record-breaking kick still makes the highlight reels when games from the past are aired.

Dempsey lived at a nursing home for several years after being diagnosed with dementia. He tested positive for the coronavirus about a week before his death. 

Mr. Dempsey proved to younger generations, especially those with health issues and dreams of some day playing in the big leagues, that it’s possible to make their dreams come true.