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Flashback: Brundige a Defender to Count On

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Bill Brundige, a math major in college, rang up some big numbers for the Redskins at the expense of opposing quarterbacks.

The 6-5, 270-pound defensive tackle was a weapon on defenses that posted one of the highest sack totals in the NFL from 1971 to 1977, the seven-year coaching regime of defensive mastermind George Allen.

Brundige said he tallied 16 sacks alone in 1973, when the Redskins recorded 53, which would be tied for the third-highest single-season mark in team history. (Sacks were not an official NFL statistic until 1982.)

Brundige, who teamed with other dominant linemen such as tackle Diron Talbert and end Ron McDole, said the key to the defense's success is that it played together as a unit.

"I pretty much knew what Diron was going to do, and Diron and I did a lot of line stunts together," Brundige said. "McDole and I did some together. We practiced that a lot, and we were very successful."

Brundige played all but one of his eight seasons under Allen. Brundige retired after the 1977 campaign. He was named to the Redskins' 70 Greatest team in honor of the franchise's 70th anniversary in 2002.

Brundige was once uncertain about whether he would even have the chance to play college football, no less the pros. Despite starring for a tiny high school in his home state of Colorado, he thought his chance of being noticed by recruiters was remote.

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He excelled in an intra-state all-star game and received a scholarship to the University of Colorado, where he was an All-American defensive end and Big 8 Defensive player of the year as a senior.

He was drafted in the second round (43rd overall) in 1970 by the Redskins, who were then coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi.

But Lombardi revealed a concern he had about the rookie who once combined physics, chemistry and math into his studies at Colorado.

"He has an IQ of 150, and it worries me," Lombardi told reporters. "He may be smarter than the coaches."

Brundige never played for Lombardi, who died of cancer just before the 1970 season.

Is he sorry about not being coached by the man who led the Packers to five NFL titles before coming to Washington in 1969?

"Yes and no," Brundige said. "He was one of the greatest that ever lived. But he was tough."

Brundige, who said he was a step slow to play end in the NFL, moved to tackle just before his rookie season, a 6-8 year under interim coach Bill Austin.

Allen subsequently arrived and traded for a plethora of the veterans he had coached with the Los Angeles Rams, including Talbert, as well as veterans from other teams. The acquisitions immediately transformed the Redskins into an aging squad that became known as the "Over the Hill Gang."

Brundige said his most memorable career moment was playing in Super Bowl VII, despite the Dolphins' 14-7 win.

In the game's final minutes, he was part of one of the most bizarre plays in Super Bowl history.

With Miami leading 14-0, Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian tried a 42-yard field goal, which was low and hit the back of the helmet of 6-6 Dolphins lineman Bob Heinz. (Brundige said he didn't block the kick, contrary to popular belief.)

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The diminutive Yepriemian scooped up he ball and backpedaled, before making a feeble attempt to throw a pass, batting the ball upward like a volleyball. Redskins cornerback Mike Bass grabbed it in mid-air and raced 49 yards down the sideline for a score. The conversion created a 14-7 game.

Brundige remembers the scene vividly.

"When the ball is flipping around on the ground, and I'm chasing Yepriemian, it's the end of the fourth quarter, 85 degrees out, I'm exhausted, my tongue's hanging out. When Yepriemian looked at me bearing down on him, he must have thought I was trying to kill him, and all I was trying to do was get my breath.

"So he was scared because I looked so mean, when I was actually just tired. The ball slipped out of his hand, and Bass caught it in mid-air and started running. I took off and tripped and fell down, and the quarterback fell over me."

After retirement, Brundige served as president of the Redskins Alumni Association in the 1990s. He lived in Salem, Va.

Michael Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia, a 432-page book that spans the 75-year history of the storied franchise. His web site is *www.redskinshistorian.com.*

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