Tom Dempsey's euphoric state probably was the reason he so easily was lured into the prank.
Yeah, that probably was it, a couple of teammates recalled on Tuesday, as Dempsey's family received positive news from Lambeth House Retirement Community, an independent and assisted living facility where Dempsey resides.
Dempsey, a former New Orleans Saint (1969-70) who held set the NFL record for longest successful field-goal attempt (63 yards, in 1970; which since has been surpassed), is doing well after testing positive for COVID-19, his daughter Ashley posted on a Facebook post on an earlier version of this story Tuesday evening. "He is doing well but not out of the woods yet," Ashley wrote. "Thank you everyone for your love and support. Please keep your prayers coming!"
Dempsey has been battling Alzheimer's disease and dementia since 2013.
After making the historic kick, which gave the Saints a victory over Detroit as time expired, much of the team headed to Jimmy Moran's restaurant for the post-game gathering. Dempsey came in after the others had arrived and seated at the back of the restaurant; Dempsey and his guests occupied a table nearer to the front.
"We had a big table and we were celebrating, and remember that's right around the time when the presidents started calling various athletes that did great things," said receiver Danny Abramowicz (1967-73). "So what I did is, I schemed up a deal with the maître d to take a phone out there and tell him that the president is on the phone."
"We were in the back and Abramowicz says, 'Watch this,' " quarterback Billy Kilmer (1967-70) said. "We had a phone right next to the table and there was a girl who was the maître d up front, and (Abramowicz) said, 'Look, tell Tom Dempsey that the president is on the line.' We're all back there watching. The girl runs over and you could see her tell him."
Dempsey took the bait.
"And all of a sudden he gets his chest pumped out and he hobbles over, and he grabs the phone and he says, 'Yes, Mr. President,' " Kilmer said.
"And he picks the phone up and I said, 'Tom, this is the president,' " Abramowicz said. " 'Yep, Mr. President.' I said, 'You big dummy, it's me, Danny.' He started chasing me. He wanted to kill me."
Dempsey only was a Saint for two seasons, but earned his teammates' everlasting respect, not least of all because he played through his disability. He was born without toes on his right foot or fingers on his right hand, and required a specialized shoe for kicking. But he provided the Saints with one of the signature plays in franchise history, and one of the memorable plays in NFL history.
"Any time you think of Tom Dempsey, your mind immediately goes to the 63-yard field goal that is still the highlight of our first seven or eight years in the league," said guard Jake Kupp (1967-75). "That was just something that I don't think any of us will ever forget.
"What impressed me so much about him is he never looked at himself as having any handicaps or any problems. Tom, in his mind, felt like he could do anything and he brought that kind of spirit to the team. He was somebody that we really looked up to and we really appreciated him.
"My personal memory of Tom was just somebody that had overcome some challenges that he had in his life, and he made the very best of it. He took those challenges and made them his strengths. Just was an outstanding person in that way."
Abramowicz said he admired those same characteristics.
"I remember his positive attitude, never give up and try his best," he said.
Dempsey made a strong first impression, and cemented it with his record-breaking field goal.
"The thing about Tom, when I first saw him, you hear about his supposed handicap but you tell him about it, he doesn't even worry about it," Abramowicz said. "He takes it in stride. But when he walked in and you see his hand and his foot and then, you say, 'Wow.' It makes you think, 'This guy is incredible. I can't wait to see him.'
"When he came in, I think one of our first exhibition games, in 1968, we were going to Denver to play the Broncos," Kilmer said. "We hadn't seen very much of him, I think he came to camp a little late. We knew he could kick, but our training camp was in San Diego and it was at sea level. He's kicking 40-, 50-yarders pretty good.
"We got to Denver, and he's warming up, and he's kicking field goals 60 yards. That was unheard of. I said, 'Where did this guy come from?' If he could've kicked field goals there (in Denver), he could've kicked one 70 yards, because it was lighter air. He was phenomenal."
As it turned out, he didn't need to be in Denver after all to do something phenomenal.
"Who in the world would ever dream that a man could kick a 63-yard field goal, especially with half of a foot?" Abramowicz said. "The only one that was absolutely sure he could do it? Tom Dempsey.
"In fact, when he was lined up to the kick the ball, I was walking toward the locker room down the sideline, and a lot of people I think were probably leaving the stadium. He hit that thing, it sounded like a watermelon falling off of a garage, landing on the ground. Then I looked, I said, 'This thing's gonna go through.' I ran and jumped in (the celebration) like, 'I knew he was gonna do it all the time.' "