In Super Bowl VII at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — with Washington facing the undefeated AFC champion Miami Dolphins — Brundige was the man who blocked a low, 42-yard field goal attempt by Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian, a Cypriot by birth who knew far more about soccer than he did football.
The Dolphins led 14-0 with just over two minutes to play when Brundige entered Super Bowl lore. The blocked kick bounced to Yepremian’s right, and the diminutive kicker picked it up just before holder Earl Morrall could fall on it. With Brundige, all 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds of him, bearing down, Yepremian simply panicked.
He made a frantic attempt to pass the ball to Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka, a blocker on the field goal unit, but the ball slipped out of Yepremian’s smallish hand. It went straight up in the air, and Yepremian swiped at it, trying to knock it out of bounds.
Instead it went right into the welcoming hands of Washington defensive back Mike Bass. Yepremian flailed trying to tackle Bass, his former teammate when both had played for the Detroit Lions, and Bass returned it 49 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-7 with 2:07 left in the game. Instead of trailing by 17, the Redskins had new life, though they never threatened again as Miami held on to complete its 17-0 season.
The memory of Brundige’s great grunt work in blocking the kick has mostly faded over the years, along with his outstanding defensive line play over an abbreviated eight-year career, all but one of them with George Allen as his head coach.
Brundige had been a physics major at Colorado, a first-team all-American who was particularly proud that he was the first Washington player taken in the 1970 draft by Vince Lombardi, who came to the nation’s capital to coach the Redskins in 1969. A second-round choice and the 43rd overall selection, Brundige never had the chance to play for the legendary coach, who died on Sept. 3, 1970, from colon cancer just before the 1970 season began.
Lombardi clearly picked the right man. Brundige, only 21 that fall, started for most of his rookie season under interim coach Bill Austin. Allen came the following season, and Brundige was a pass rushing stalwart over the next seven seasons.
He once told me that in 1973, he had 16 sacks, a statistic that was not officially kept by the NFL until 1982. That total surely would have been among the best in the league, and eventually he was voted by fans among the 70 all-time greatest Redskins.
Sadly, Brundige’s career did not end well. Allen’s last season as Washington’s head coach was 1977, and it was Brundige’s final year, as well. Late in the season, he suffered a foot injury during an away game in Buffalo and left the locker room that day on crutches.
The following Saturday, I distinctly recall Brundige, still on crutches and his foot encased in a large boot, hobbling out of the team’s practice facility and boarding the team bus at Redskins Park on the way to Dulles Airport and a flight to St. Louis.
He’d been listed as doubtful for action all week, but when the team took the field the next day, there he was in the starting lineup, courtesy of who knows what sort of painkilling shot he’d taken — voluntarily, he later told me — in order to play.
The Redskins beat the Cardinals that day to keep their eventually unsuccessful playoff drive alive. But with his foot further damaged and now beyond repair, it also was the last game Bill Brundige ever played.
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