(Reuters) - Garo Yepremian, a two-time Pro Bowl kicker who helped the Miami Dolphins win consecutive National Football League championships in the 1970s, has died of cancer at the age of 70, the team said on Saturday.
Yepremian, a native of Cyprus, played 14 NFL seasons, including nine with the Dolphins, and kicked a 37-yard field goal in double overtime in a 1971 playoff game against Kansas City to give the Dolphins a victory in the longest game in NFL history.
“His effusive personality supplemented his strong competitive nature, and no one made more pressure kicks than Garo,” the Dolphins said in a statement.
Three times Yepremian led the NFL in kicking accuracy, but he is often remembered for a Super Bowl gaffe that could have cost the Dolphins the title in 1972.
With the Dolphins leading 14-0 and just over two minutes left in the game, the Washington Redskins’ Bill Brundige blocked Yepremian’s field-goal attempt. Yepremian picked up the ball and tried to throw it, but it slipped out of his hands into the air and into hands of the Redskins’ Mike Bass, who ran 49 yards for a touchdown.
The Dolphins won the game to complete a perfect 17-0 season, but Yepremian will always be remembered for the blunder.
“Even that miscue demonstrated his competitiveness - he was just trying to do whatever it took to make a play,” the Dolphins said.
Yepremian, who also played for Detroit, New Orleans and Tampa Bay before retiring after the 1981 season, remains the second leading scorer in Dolphins history.
“He didn’t know much about football when he started his career but certainly helped win a lot of games for us during his time in Miami,” said Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, coach of the Dolphins from 1970 to 1995.
Over his career, Yepremian made 210 of 313 field goals (67.1 percent) and 444 of 464 extra points.
“Mentally he was sharp and I think his success as a kicker was based on his intelligence and his understanding of the challenges involved with kicking a ball through the uprights,” said former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Steve Orlofsky