U.S. President Barack Obama has praised the life and contributions of the late Jack Kemp, a former star football quarterback who became a respected politician.

Kemp died Saturday of cancer at the age of 73.

Mr. Obama said in a statement Sunday that Kemp's commitment to public service and his passion for politics not only influenced the direction of Kemp's Republican party but also the country.

The president praised Kemp for understanding that divisions between race and class only stood in the way of the country's common goals.

Kemp played professional football for 13 years, first for the San Diego Chargers and then the Buffalo Bills, before serving 18 years as a New York congressman.

He later served as housing secretary under President George H.W. Bush.  He also made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1988, and, eight years later, was the running mate of the Republican Party's presidential candidate, Bob Dole.  The pair lost that election.

At the time of his death, Kemp was chairman of Kemp Partners, a political consulting firm.  He is survived by his wife, Joanne, and four children.