Garo Yepremian dies at 70; kicker known for Super Bowl gaffe in 1973

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

MIAMI -- Garo Yepremian, the former NFL kicker who helped the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Miami Dolphins[/url] win consecutive NFL championships but is best remembered for a Super Bowl blooper, died Friday of cancer. He was 70.[br /][br /]Yepremian's wife, Maritza, said he died at a hospital in Media, Pennsylvania. His illness was diagnosed in May 2014, she said.[br /][br /]Yepremian played from 1966 to 1981. The native of Cyprus came to the United States at age 22 and kicked in the first NFL game he ever saw.[br /][br /]His 37-yard field goal in the second overtime ended the longest game in NFL history, a Dolphins playoff victory over[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Kansas City[/url]on Christmas 1971, and he helped Miami win back-to-back NFLtitles in 1972-73. But Yepremian's gaffe in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl in January 1973 nearly spoiled the Dolphins' bid to complete a perfect season.[br /][br /]With Miami leading 14-0 and on the verge of finishing the season 17-0, the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Washington Redskins[/url] blocked Yepremian's field goal attempt. He picked up the ball and tried to throw it but fumbled, and the Redskins' Mike Bass ran it 49 yards for a touchdown.[br /][Ads /][br /]"Every airport you go to, people point to you and say, 'Here's the guy who screwed up in the Super Bowl,'" Yepremian said in a 2007 interview. "After a while it bothers you. If it was anybody else he would go crazy, but fortunately, I'm a happy-go-lucky guy."[br /][br /]Decades later, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula was able to laugh as he reminisced about the play -- perhaps the weirdest in Super Bowl history.[br /][br /]"I thought, 'Boy, this will be great if Garo kicks this field goal and we go ahead 17-0 in a 17-0 season. What a great way that would be to remember the game," Shula said. "And then Garo did what he did, and it's 14-7 with still a couple of minutes to go. I'm looking for Garo, and I'm ready to kill Garo, and I couldn't find him. He went down to one end of the bench, and I haven't seen him since."[br /][br /]Despite Yepremian's mistake, Miami won to complete the NFL's only perfect season. Yepremian also kicked for the Dolphins when they repeated as champions in 1973.[br /][br /]"His effusive personality supplemented his strong competitive nature, and no one made more pressure kicks than Garo," Dolphins senior vice president Nat Moore said in a statement. "While Garo is also remembered for his ill-fated pass attempt following a blocked kick in Super Bowl VII, even that miscue demonstrated his competitiveness -- he was just trying to do whatever it took to make a play. ...With his love of life and of the Dolphins, Garo was one of a kind."[br /][br /]Prematurely bald and only 5-foot-8, the left-legged Yepremian hardly looked like an NFL star.[br /][br /]He broke in with the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Detroit Lions[/url], who signed him as their first soccer-style kicker when that approach was a novelty. As a rookie in 1966 he broke a league record with six field goals in a game at[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Minnesota[/url]. He joined the Dolphins in 1970, made the Pro Bowl twice with them and led the league in field goal accuracy three times. He also kicked for the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]New Orleans Saints[/url] and [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Tampa Bay Buccaneers[/url].[br /][br /]Private funeral arrangements are pending. A viewing is planned Wednesday in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.[br /][br /]Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.[/i][br /][br /]