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Ken Houston

Ken Houston
Lufkin, Texas
November 12, 1944
197 lbs
Prairie A&M College
NFL Career
14 seasons, 196 games
Washington Redskins


Career Highlights And Awards

• Twelve-time Pro Bowl selection (1968-1979)
• Two-time First-Team All-Pro selection (1975, 1978)
• Ten-time Second-Team All-Pro selection (1968-1974, 1976, 1977, 1979)
• 1980 Washington Redskins Defensive Player of the Year
• 1973 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
• 1986 Inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
• 1999 Inductee into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame
• 2004 Inductee into the Prairie View A&M University Sports Hall of Fame
• Voted one of the 70 Greatest Redskins
• Voted to the Washington Ring of Fame
• NFL 75th Anniversary All Time Team
• NFL 100th Anniversary All Time Team
• First team NFL 1970’s All Decade team
• Titans / Oilers Ring of Fame
• Ranked 61st on Sporting news’ 100 Greatest Football Players list
• NFL Record – most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a season (4)

The Greatest Washington Defender Ever?

Ken Houston played for the Washington Redskins and the Houston Oilers in an illustrious National Football League career that spanned 14 seasons. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play the game.

Born on November 12, 1944, in Lufkin, Texas, Houston grew up in a family of athletes. His father played baseball and basketball, and his mother was an accomplished basketball player. Houston inherited his parents’ love for sports, and excelled in both football and basketball during his high school years at Dunbar High School.

After graduating from high school, Houston attended Prairie A&M College (now Prairie View A&M University). He initially started as a center but moved to linebacker. He quickly established himself as a standout player and was named an All American and to the All-Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) team.

He also ran track and was on the swim team in college.

Houston, Houston Bound

Houston would join the AFL’s Houston Oilers in 1967. He was drafted in the ninth round – 214th overall. He played with the Oilers until 1972 – three years in the AFL and then three more when they joined the NFL in the AFL / NFL merger in 1970.

He made an immediate impact and was starting by the third game of his first season. He quickly became one of the best safeties in the league, largely due to an incredible knack for knowing where the ball was going to go. In the fifth week of the season, he scored on a 43-yard interception return as well as on a 71-yard blocked field goal attempt.

In 1971 he set an NFL record with five touchdown returns – four interceptions and one fumble. The record stood until 2006 (Devin Hester).

He was a very talented runner for a player on the defensive side of the ball.

Five For One

Houston’s tenure with the Oilers came to an end in 1973. He was traded to the Washington Redskins in exchange for five players – Jon Snowden (OL), Mack Alston (TE), Clifton McNeil (WR), Mike Fanucci (DE) and Jeff Severson (DB).

It was a move that would change the course of Houston’s career and solidify his legacy as one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history. He went to seven straight Pro Bowls in Washington.

In his first season with the Redskins, the hard-hitting Houston played a pivotal role in the team’s success, intercepting six passes and earning a spot on the All-Pro team.

He also quickly established himself as the team’s leader and one of the most feared defensive backs in the league. He continued to play at an elite level throughout his time with the Redskins, and was a perennial All-Pro in Washington.

One of Houston’s biggest moments with the Redskins came in a game against the Dallas Cowboys on November 12, 1978. With the game tied at 14-14 and just seconds remaining in regulation, Houston intercepted a pass from Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, giving the Redskins a thrilling 21-14 victory. The play is still remembered as one of the greatest moments in Redskins history, and it cemented Houston’s legacy as a clutch performer.

He was a true team player and always put the team ahead of his own personal goals. He possessed a tremendous work ethic and commitment to the game. He would often spend hours analyzing opponent tendencies and identifying weaknesses.

It’s not always a popular statement in modern times, but he was the greatest safety to ever don the burgundy and gold.

In fact, you can state that he may have been the greatest defensive player ever for the Redskins.

Canton Worthy

Houston retired from the NFL after the 1980 season, having played in 196 games over his 14-year career. He finished with 49 interceptions, which is still tied for the seventh-most in NFL history.

He scored nine touchdowns on interceptions over that span which was a record, and had 898 interception return yards. His four interception returns in one season was also an NFL record, as was his two interception touchdowns in a single game.

In addition to his interception touchdowns, he also scored touchdowns on a punt return, a fumble return and a blocked field goal return giving him 12 career touchdowns in total.

He also recovered 21 fumbles.

Houston was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 as one of the greatest defensive backs of all time.

Life After Football

Following his retirement, Houston remained involved in football as a coach. He was head football coach at Wheatley and Westbury High Schools in Houston, Texas.

He jumped to the NFL in 1982 as the defensive backfield coach for the Houston oilers, where he remained until 1985.

In 1986, he joined the University of Houston as their defensive backfield coach.

Away from  the field, Houston was known for his strong Christian faith and his commitment to charitable causes. He founded the Ken Houston Youth Foundation, which provides mentoring and educational programs for at-risk youth in the Houston area. He also served as a pastor at the Christian House of Prayer in Killeen, Texas.

He also served as a guidance counsellor for children in hospitals for the Houston Independent School District.

Ken and his wife Gustie had two children – daughter Kene, and son Kenneth Christian.

Tough picks Ken Houston

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