Brig Owens, a defensive back with Washington for 12 of his 13 NFL seasons, has died at age 79.
He died on Tuesday, according to a statement by the Military Bowl Foundation, where he was a board member. No cause of death was released.
“Brig was such a special person,” Military Bowl Foundation president and executive director Steve Beck said in a statement. “He believed so strongly in helping others and repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to giving back to the community. He was an important part of the Military Bowl Foundation and took great pride in helping our nation’s service members.”
Owens, a native of Linden, Texas, ranks second in Washington franchise history with 36 interceptions and first with 686 interception return yards. He scored five defensive touchdowns in his career (three on INTs, two on fumble returns), and is one of just four players in club history with five or more defensive scores.
Owens recorded an end-zone interception in his only Super Bowl appearance, a 14-7 loss to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII. He also scored two defensive touchdowns — a 62-yard fumble return and a 60-yard interception return — in a 72-41 win over the New York Giants in 1966, which remains the NFL’s highest-scoring game in history. Owens had three interceptions in the game.
The respected Owens, who was Black, also gained notoriety by rooming for 12 seasons with former tight end Jerry Smith, who was white, at training camp and on road trips. They became the league’s first interracial roommates.
A member of Washington’s Ring of Fame, Owens was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round in 1965 after a storied college career at quarterback at Cincinnati. Dallas moved him to safety, then traded him to Washington after his rookie season spent on the sideline.
Owens became an immediate starter at safety in Washington, leading the team with seven picks in 1966 — one of three seasons with five or more INTs in his career. He went on to play every game for Washington in 11 straight seasons from 1966-1976 and didn’t miss a game until his final year in 1977.
For his career, Owens played 158 games and made 123 starts, all with Washington.