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Former Washington defensive back Brig Owens dies at 79

Defensive back Brig Owens drops back in pass coverage against the Chicago Bears in 1974. (Nate Fine/Getty Images)
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Former Washington defensive back Brig Owens, a 13-year NFL veteran and one of the best to play for the franchise, died this week. He was 79.

Owens died Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Military Bowl Foundation, of which he was a board member. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Owens was a star quarterback at the University of Cincinnati who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1965 before they converted him into a safety, then traded him to Washington the following year. The move to Washington was the “best thing that ever happened to me — it allowed for a new beginning,” Owens once said.

In Washington, he became one of the best players in team history. He was a defensive captain, starred on the 1972 squad that reached Super Bowl VII and fell to the undefeated Miami Dolphins, and scored two defensive touchdowns in a 72-41 win over the New York Giants in 1966 that remains the highest-scoring game in NFL history.

Owens’s 36 interceptions rank second behind Darrell Green on the team’s all-time list. He was inducted to the team’s Ring of Fame and in 2012 was named one of the best 80 players in franchise history.

Owens also shares some NFL history with former Washington tight end Jerry Smith. Owens, who was Black, and Smith, who was White, became the NFL’s first interracial roommates in 1966. They roomed together at training camp and on the road during their 12 seasons together in Washington.

Owens was inducted to the University of Cincinnati Athletics Hall of Fame in 1979. He enrolled in law school toward the end of his playing career and played an active role in NFL Players Association affairs, first as a player representative and later as its assistant executive director.

He created a youth development program in Washington called Super Leaders and was listed as the vice president of Bennett Group, a real estate development firm.

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