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