Remembering Brig Owens

Greetings from The Booth!

In the down time between the Spring and Fall seasons at Shenandoah University, we take time this week to recognize the academic achievements of the Hornet’s Athletic Department. For only the second time since team GPAs have been tracked at SU, all 22 intercollegiate programs have at least a 3.0 team grade point average. Ashley Smeltzer-Kraft’s field hockey team were the ‘brainiacs” of the bunch, leading the way with a collective 3.68, while on the men’s side, ODAC champ baseball had a team 3.4. When you consider the hectic schedule of a D-3 student-athlete, this is an amazing accomplishment. The bar has been set high at Shenandoah, both on the academic and athletic fronts, not to mention community service, and you can’t do much better than 22 for 22!  For more on this topic, check out this week’s Sports Dog’s Podcast, and my conversation with SU’s Scott Musa.

If you’re a fan of the old Washington Redskins’ “Over The Hill Gang” of the 1970’s, this is a tough week. On Tuesday, safety Brig Owens passed away at the age of 79. Owens was a defensive captain for those George Allen-led teams, including the 1972 squad, who went all the way to Super Bowl VII, before falling to Miami (Owens picked off a pass in that game).

His 36 interceptions are second only to the great Darrell Green in team history, a mark that earned Owens a spot in the ‘Skins Ring Of Fame. He also made some NFL history that you may not know about. In 1966, Owens and tight end Jerry Smith became the league’s first interracial roommates, and remained so in their 12 seasons in DC. In an age where most NFL players had to have an off-season job to make ends meet, Brig Owens attended law school as his playing days wound down, and put that to good use in the NFL Players Association as a player rep, and assistant executive director.

I had the pleasure, through my good friend Dr. Kurt Pierce (who played football at UVA and for the Miami Dolphins), of meeting Brig Owens over the Christmas holidays at the Sam Huff memorial in Middleburg. Among other things, we talked about maybe his most famous play. It happened on a Monday Night game in 1973 against the Dallas Cowboys. With the score tied at 7 late in the contest, RFK Stadium erupted as Owens picked off a Craig Morton pass and returned it 26 yards for what would be the game-winning score. That play was overshadowed somewhat by the Ken Houston goal line tackle moments later on Walt Garrison (the most famous tackle in Washington football history). I said to Brig, “I remember that interception like it was yesterday.” His reply to me, in his understated way, was “So do I.”

Brig Owens accomplished much on the field and off in his illustrious career , but my lingering memory of him will be of that legendary pick-six against the hated Cowboys. Rest in Peace, Brig! I’m proud to have met you…

Until the next visit from the Booth, GO HORNETS and HTTR!

RW

 

 

 

 

Tidbits

Greetings from The Booth!

As June replaces May and Summer unofficially begins this week with 90-degree temperatures, I thought I would cover multiple subjects in the latest VFB. First, congrats to Shenandoah University’s Tucker Kindig, who earned All-America status last weekend at the NCAA D-3 Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Geneva, Ohio. His hammer throw earned him an eighth-place finish, good enough for the accolade. Kindig also shines in the classroom, with a 3.78 overall GPA. We don’t give the Track & Field athletes enough notoriety, so we right a great wrong here and put Tucker in the limelight. The All-America honor is the first in (Outdoor) program history, and it is well-deserved!

The awards continue to roll in for SU Baseball, which just wrapped up a stellar 37-12-1 season. Five Hornets were named to the NCAA All-Region team: Pearce Bucher, Kyle Lisa, Frankie Ritter, Calvin Pastel, and Henry Delavergne were honored by either the ABCA or d3baseball.com, with Lisa being named to the second team by both organizations. All five were named All-ODAC, and I’m sure all five would trade all that hardware for a chance to still be playing for a National Championship. Still, great rewards for a great season.

Speaking of baseball, it’s going to be a long hot Summer if you are a Washington Nationals fan. As of this writing, the team is 18-34 and haven’t scored a run in 21 innings. This is not the same as the 19-31 start in 2019, when the Nats recovered and won the World Series. This is clearly a rebuild for GM Mike Rizzo, and I think the best way for Nationals fans to tolerate what looks like a last-place finish in the NL East is to enjoy the young stars like pitcher Josiah Gray, who looks like he is going to be a keeper. Pitcher Erick Fedde seems to have come into his own after several struggling campaigns, and right now is clearly the ace of the staff. Josh Bell has been a mainstay, and Juan Soto is a superstar worth the price of admission. Now, if we could just get Stephen Strasburg back on the field…

Finally, staying in baseball mode, the boys are back in town, as we begin another season of Valley Baseball League action. For the next couple of months, players from all over the country will converge on communities like Winchester, Front Royal, Strasburg, and Woodstock and hone their craft in hopes of making “the show.” The VBL is, after all, “The Gateway To The Majors.” Lifetime bonds are formed with host families, as nightly games are played in quaint ballparks all over the Valley, as teams vie for the Lineweaver Cup in early August. This slice of Americana won’t last long, so get to a game or two before the Summer is over. I believe I just wrote a Country Time Lemonade commercial…so grab a tall glass and enjoy the game as the sun sets over Bridgeforth Field, The Bing, and Luxurious Rebel Park!

Until the next visit from (the air-conditioned) Booth…PLAY BALL!

RW