Garo Yepremian, the Miami Dolphins’ kicker during their glory years in the 1970s, died on Friday at age 70 after a year-long battle with cancer, his wife Maritza confirmed to the Associated Press on Friday night.
Yepremian, who died in a hospital in Media, Pennsylvania, was the Dolphins’ kicker from 1970 through 1978 and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1970s. Three times, he led the league in field-goal accuracy.
He won the longest game in NFL history when he kicked a 37-yard field goal 7 minutes and 40 seconds into double overtime of the Dolphins’ 27-24 divisional playoff victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas Day in 1971.
But Yepremian might best be remembered for a blooper in the Dolphins’ 14-7 win against Washington in Super Bowl 7.
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With Miami leading 14-0, Yepremian attempted a field goal with slightly more than two minutes left. The kick was blocked by Bill Brundige, and Yepremian retrieved the ball before any other player could pounce on it.
But instead of merely falling on the ball, he picked it up and attempted to throw a pass. The ball slipped from his hands and went straight up in the air.
Yepremian then attempted to bat the ball out of bounds but instead batted it back up in the air, and it landed in the arms of Redskins cornerback Mike Bass, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
But the Dolphins held on, completing the only undefeated season in NFL history.
“This is the first time the goat of the game is in the winner’s locker room,” he joked afterward.
In an interview in 2007, Yepremian said: “Every airport you go to, people point to you and say, ‘Here’s the guy who screwed up in the Super Bowl. After a while it bothers you. If it was anybody else he would go crazy, but fortunately I’m a happy-go-lucky guy.”
Yepremian made 24 of 37 field goals during that 1972 undefeated season.
Yepremian was born in Cyprus, the son of Armenian parents. He and his brother Krikor emigrated to the United States when he was 22.
After watching pro football games on television, Garo Yepremian became convinced he could become an NFL kicker.
Yepremian, who stood 5-foot-8, began contacting NFL teams, with Krikor serving as his agent. The Detroit Lions signed him after a tryout and he made 15 of 28 field-goal attempts over two seasons. His NFL debut was the first pro football game he ever attended.
He left football to enlist in the U.S. Army, but the Lions decided not to re-sign him when he returned a year later, and Yepremian signed with the Michigan Arrows of the Continental Football League.
But the team folded and Yepremian sat out the 1969 season. He earned a job with the Dolphins in 1970, led the NFL with 117 points in 1971 and spent nine seasons with Miami.
He finished out his career with one season in New Orleans and two in Tampa Bay. Over his career, Yepremian made 210 of 313 field goals (67.1 percent) and 444 of 464 extra points.
In 2001, he founded the Garo Yepremian Foundation to raise money for brain tumor research to help his daughter-in-law Debby through her fight with cancer. She died in 2004.
In May, 2014, Garo was diagnosed with a brain tumor caused by neuroendocrine cancer, according to the foundation’s website. The tumor was removed, and Yepremian underwent chemotherapy before succumbing to the disease Friday. According to the AP, private funeral arrangements are pending. A viewing is planned Wednesday in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.