ENCINITAS — The community is invited to participate in a public viewing for a proposed life-sized sculpture of Leucadia native and NFL sports legend Tom Dempsey.
The statue commemorates the 63-yard, record-setting kick made by Dempsey on Nov. 8, 1970 that established his as the longest field goal in NFL history. The sculpture would be gifted to the city by the Patrons of Encinitas Parks. The miniature of the sculpture will be on view through June 22, in the lobby of Encinitas City Hall, located at 505 S. Vulcan Ave. The public is requested to complete a comment card after viewing. Their observations will become part of a report to the City Council at their meeting at 6 p.m. July 14. All proposed gifts of public art must first have a period of public viewing before it comes to the City Council for consideration.
The sculpture, by artist Don Reynolds, will be cast in bronze and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. The Patrons of Encinitas Parks are proposing to place the sculpture at the Hall Property park. “It is great that we are honoring Tom in this way,” said Steve Lebherz, PEP vice president.
“This is a way to immortalize a local hero. He overcame so much — it is amazing,” said John Wadas, who is overseeing the fundraising campaign for the sculpture.
Dempsey, born Jan. 12, 1947, was an American football/NFL kicker for the New Orleans Saints (1969-1970), Philadelphia Eagles (1971-1974), Los Angeles Rams (1975-1976), Houston Oilers (1977) and Buffalo Bills (1978-1979). He was born and raised in Leucadia, and lived on Vulcan just south of Orpheus Avenue. His father Huey and mother Laverne ran the local jewelry store in what is now the Encinitas City Hall. Huey was one of the founders of Encinitas Little League where Tom, in spite of his physical disabilities — he was born with no right hand and no toes on his right foot, his kicking foot — he became a member of the Little League’s very first All Star team. At San Dieguito High School he excelled at football, wrestling and baseball. On the football team, he was the third string field goal kicker and all league tackle. He went on to play football at Palomar College.
He wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe area, giving somewhat the appearance of a hammer. He used a straight approach to kick the ball as opposed to the “football/soccer style” used by nearly all place kickers today. Dempsey’s accomplishment led to the NFL passing a rule requiring that all footgear be “normal” regardless of the kicker’s personal situation. He is most widely known for his NFL record 63-yard field goal, kicked in the final five seconds to give the New Orleans Saints a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions. This record still stands, although it was equaled by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos on Oct. 25, 1998.
For more info on the Dempsey sculpture project, contact John Wadas at [email protected] For more info on the Patrons of Encinitas Parks, visit www.patronsofencinitasparks.org.