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Garo Yepremian
Date of birth: June 2, 1944 (1944-06-02) (age 65)
Place of birth: Larnaca, Cyprus
Career information
Position(s): Placekicker
Jersey №: 1, 47
College: None
Organizations
 As player:
1966-1967
1970-1978
1979
1980-1981
Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Career highlights and awards
Awards: 1974 Pro Bowl MVP
Honors: NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
Playing stats at DatabaseFootball.com

Garabed Sarkis "Garo" Yepremian (born June 2, 1944) is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a career that spanned from 1966 to 1981.

Yepremian was born in Larnaca, Cyprus to Armenian parents. Yepremian had no prior knowledge of American football and the first game he played in was the first game he saw. The evolution of young Garo from wide-eyed immigrant to an NFL star on arguably the greatest team in history (the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins) made him a real life Rocky. On the island of Cyprus, his poor family did not have indoor plumbing and kept warm in winter by burning olive pits. The family shared one dream: the American Dream. It is the stuff of fiction that within a few years the disarming Garo would be the leading scorer in a sport he never knew existed, was golfing with Jackie Gleason and singing alongside Bob Hope.

Garo's brother, Krikor Yepremian, had emigrated to the U.S. to attend Indiana University on a soccer scholarship and then set a foundation for his family's arrival. But life in America proved challenging for Krikor, and when younger brother Garo joined him, the brothers had limited prospects. That is, until Garo saw a football game on television and had a curious feeling he could kick field goals.

After much practice in which he finally proved to Krikor he possessed this unusual talent, the brothers Yepremian set off on a hilarious mission to convince NFL teams that Garo could be an American football star. The NFL didn't know what to make of the Yepremians. Krikor acted as Garo's agent and finally managed to convince the Detroit Lions to give the little foreigner (5'7, 160 pounds) a tryout. Garo's miraculous talent earned him a contract.

In his rookie year, he broke a record by kicking six field goals in a single game for the Lions against the Minnesota Vikings. That record was broken the next season by the St. Louis Cardinals' Jim Bakken, who kicked seven field goals in a game. His talent aside, Garo was, nonetheless, at a loss regarding football vernacular and custom. In his first game his coach told him that their team had lost the coin toss, at which point Garo ran to midfield and dropped to his knees looking for the coin. His assimilation into the rough and tumble NFL was a veritable comedy of events.

As a foreigner, the lovable, disarming Yepremian was an immediate target to NFL players who considered American football the exclusive realm of Americans. Players were looking to take his head off, and before his first kickoff his coach told him to run to the bench as soon as he kicked before his opponents could lay into him. Garo kicked off, then in a harried state ran to the bench -- the wrong bench. He found himself sitting with the opposing team. Garo had never worn a helmet before and at first decided not to use one with a face mask, but that quickly changed during Week 4 of the 1966 season, when he was knocked to the ground and badly injured by Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke. Afterwards, he started using a single-bar mask.

During one of his early games with the Lions, they were losing but scored a touchdown in the last 10 seconds of the game. Yepremian was sent in to kick the extra point, and he was so excited after converting the point that he went running off the field with his arms raised up celebrating. His teammate Alex Karras asked Yepremian, "What the hell are you celebrating?" Yepremian replied with the catch phrase made famous on the Johnny Carson show "I keek a touchdown".

In 1968, Yepremian left football to enlist in the U.S. Army. The Lions chose not to re-sign him when he returned the following year, and he sat out the 1969 season. In 1970, Yepremian earned a spot on the Dolphins roster. He led the league in points with 117 in 1971. Garo was a key member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins "Perfect Season" team- he was the leading scorer and converted on many clutch field goals to help the Dolphins stay unbeaten. Some say he was an earnest and steadying force on a team with a colorful assortment of characters enjoying every benefit of vibrant Miami in the early '70s. Garo became beloved in this Miami. He appeared in three Super Bowls (VI, VII and VIII).

Yepremian is best known for two feats — one famous, one infamous. In a divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas 1971, he kicked a 37-yard field goal 7 minutes and 40 seconds into double overtime, ending the longest game in NFL history and sending the Dolphins to the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Colts (which the Dolphins won to go on to Super Bowl VI).

Despite all of Yepremian's success, many people remember him for an incident in Super Bowl VII. With his team leading the Washington Redskins 14-0, Yepremian was sent on to the field to kick a field goal with slightly more than two minutes left, which would have put the game out of reach. The field goal attempt was blocked by Bill Brundige, and Yepremian managed to get to the ball before any other player did. Instead of just falling on the ball to preserve the Dolphins' 14-0 lead, he picked it up and frantically attempted to throw a pass. The ball slipped from his hands and went straight up in the air. Yepremian then batted it back up in the air, and it went right into the arms of his former Lions teammate, Redskins cornerback Mike Bass, who returned it for a touchdown. The Dolphins managed to hold on to win, 14-7 to preserve their perfect season.

In the 1974 Pro Bowl Yepremian kicked five field goals to lead the AFC to a win, and was voted Most Valuable Player in that game. He was elected to another Pro Bowl after he kicked twenty consecutive field goals without a miss in 1979. Over his career, Yepremian was successful on 210 of 313 field goals and 444 of 464 extra points for a total of 1,074 points. He led the league in field-goal accuracy three times.

Although he was voted Kicker of the Decade (over Jan Stenerud) by both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and by Sports Illustrated between 1970 and 1980, Garo has not yet been voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite being nominated recently (Stenerud was elected in 1991).

Contents

Accolades

Earned two Pro Bowl appearances. Named to Sports Illustrated's “Dr. Z's All Decade 1970s Team". In 1981, Yepremian was elected to the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. Voted "Kicker of the Decade" (1970s) by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee. Nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Named one of the Miami Dolphin all-time "Greatest Players" (as part of the Dolphins' 40th Anniversary).

Post-athletic career

He became a motivational speaker and is the Founder/CEO of the Garo Yepremian Foundation for Brain Tumor Research.

Reebok featured Garo Yepremian and his teammates from the 1972 Dolphins team in a commercial which aired during Super Bowl XLII (The New England Patriots were defeated in the game, and were denied the chance to duplicate the 1972 Dolphins achievement).

References

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Other sources

  • Carroll, Bob, et al. (1999). Total Football II. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-270174-6

External links


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