Garabed Sarkis “Garo” Yepremian (June 2, 1944 – May 15, 2015) was an 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 signed with the Detroit Lions on October 13, 1966.
In his rookie year, he broke an American football record by kicking six field goals in a single game against the Minnesota Vikings. His talent aside, Yepremian 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 Yepremian ran to midfield and dropped to his knees looking for the coin.
Yepremian was an immediate target to NFL players who considered American football the exclusive realm of Americans. Players were looking to take Yepremian’s 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. Yepremian kicked off, then in a harried state ran to the wrong bench, finding himself sitting with the opposing team. Yepremian had never worn a helmet and at first decided not to use one with a face mask, but that changed during Week 4 of the 1966 season, when he was knocked to the ground and badly injured by Green Bay Packers linebacker Ray Nitschke. Afterwards, he started using a single-bar mask. He was the last player in the NFL to not wear a facemask on his helmet.
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.
Yepremian died on the morning of May 15, 2015 from high grade neuroendocrine cancer at the age of 70.
- Two Pro Bowl appearances
- Named to Sports Illustrated’s “Dr. Z’s All Decade 1970s Team”
- Elected to the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1982
- 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 Dolphins all-time 40 greatest players as part of the Dolphins’ 40th Anniversary, 2005
- Longest NFL career (14 seasons) for any player who did not play football in college
- Inducted into the American Football Association’s Semi Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988
- Named one of the Miami Dolphins all-time 50 greatest players as part of the Dolphins’ 50th Anniversary, 2015.