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Former New Orleans Saints Kicker Tom Dempsey Dies of Coronavirus Complications at 73

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Former NFL star Tom Dempsey died on Saturday from complications related to the novel coronavirus, Nola.com first reported. He was 73.

The New Orleans Saints, whom Dempsey played for as a kicker, released a statement following news of his death.

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“Our thoughts and prayers are extended to Carlene and the entire Dempsey family on the passing of their dear Tom,” the statement read. “The New Orleans Saints family is deeply saddened and heartbroken at this most difficult time. 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. He exemplified the same fight and fortitude in recent years as he battled valiantly against illnesses but never wavered and kept his trademark sense of humor. He holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Saints family.”

Former NFL star Harold Carmichael also paid tribute to Dempsey on Twitter. “Tom Dempsey was a fun teammate to be around. He was a jokester. My condolences to his family. RIP my friend,” Carmichael wrote.

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Dempsey tested positive for COVID-19 on March 26 after being taken to a hospital the day before because he had exhibited symptoms, his family previously told Nola.com.

The retired athlete has lived at the Lambeth House Retirement Community in New Orleans, Louisiana, since 2012, when he revealed he was diagnosed with dementia. The assisted living facility has been a hotbed of the deadly respiratory illness, with more than 50 confirmed cases and 13 deaths related to the virus.

After testing positive for the coronavirus, Dempsey returned to his apartment at the Lambeth House and was given medication, his daughter, Ashley Dempsey, told the outlet.

Then, Dempsey woke up with no fever, giving the family hope that Ashley said ended up being premature. “We thought we were out of the woods with the no fever,” she said. “It was wishful thinking.”

Dempsey’s appetite left with the fever, and his oxygen levels dropped, Ashley told Nola.com. The development in his condition prompted Ashley and the rest of the Dempsey family to hire a hospice care agency to take care of Tom at the Lambeth House.

Dempsey cemented his place in Saints football history when he beat the record for longest field goal by seven yards in a game against the Detroit Lions in 1970.

Louisiana has become one of the states with the most cases in the country, with at least 12,496 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 412 deaths related to the virus as of Sunday morning. Nationwide, there are at least 311,00 confirmed cases and 8,400 related deaths.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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