Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Garo Yepremian gone, but his name is forever etched in Dolphins lore

In this 1972 file photo, Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian poses for a photo in Miami. Yepremian, the former NFL kicker who helped the Dolphins win consecutive NFL championships but is best remembered for a Super Bowl blooper, died Friday, May 15, 2015, of cancer. He was 70.
In this 1972 file photo, Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian poses for a photo in Miami. Yepremian, the former NFL kicker who helped the Dolphins win consecutive NFL championships but is best remembered for a Super Bowl blooper, died Friday, May 15, 2015, of cancer. He was 70. AP

So few names in the Miami Dolphins’ 50-year history have elevated above the playing field into franchise folklore. So few players could be described with only a first name, a single word, and that would be plenty.

Garo.

With greatness and whimsy, he was a part of the team’s biggest days.

Garabed Sarkis Yepremian, the little kicker from Cyprus, died Friday at age 70 after battling adrenal cancer that had led to a brain tumor. His wife Maritza said he passed away at a hospital in Media, Pennsylvania, near their Philadelphia home.

I had written about the fight of his life last summer.

His latest round of chemotherapy had just ended.

“It’s a gorgeous day,” he said.

Yepremian, a Dolphin from 1970 through 1978, always will be most known for his faux pas in the 1972 Perfect Season Super Bowl — a lapse remembered with a smile, because Miami won.

“I honestly thought my life was over,” he told me.

It happened on Jan. 14, 1973. A field-goal attempt was botched, and Yepremian tried to throw a pass that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown by the Washington Redskins. Only because Miami won 14-7 did Garo escape the savagery of being labeled a national goat.

He dealt with his unique place in history with wonderful humor.

As recently as January, alluding to the New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” controversy, Yepremian posted on Twitter, “Forty-two years later I realize I should have deflated the ball to get a better grip on it.”

His one most famous, most infamous moment always overshadowed a career that stood on its own even as his ill-fated “pass” was what Johnny Carson delighted to skewer in late-night monologues.

Yepremian was named to Miami’s Silver Anniversary team encompassing the club’s first 25 seasons. He was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.

He won so many games beyond the one famous one he almost lost.

He stood barely 5-8 but authored so many of the biggest moments in club history, including the field goal on Christmas Day 1971 in Kansas City that ended “The Longest Game” and gave Miami its first playoff victory in franchise history.

I was a kid then. I remember my father and I, watching in our living room, pogoing up and down and hugging after Garo’s kick sailed true. (The high-five hadn’t been invented yet.)

Four decades later one of the most iconic names in Miami Dolphins history has lapsed into memory. But you still only need a single word to describe him:

Garo.

More coverage

▪ Two lines here to garo obit here here here, 1D

▪ Go to MiamiHerald.com/sports to read more about Garo Yepremian and view a photo gallery of his career with the Dolphins

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