When Mel Kauffman came out of Santa Monica High in the mid-1970s the linebacker wasn’t coveted by Division 1 football schools and went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
He played on the 1980 Division 2 national championship team there.
When he completed college he wasn’t coveted by National Football League teams and wasn’t drafted. That wasn’t surprising because he weighed only 204 pounds.
But Kauffman impressed the Washington Redskins in a 1981 tryout and was signed by general manager Bobby Beathard.
He proceeded to start in 78 games and played in three Super Bowls, including Redskin wins in 1983 and 1988.
Kauffman, 50, died in early February. The cause of death wasn’t announced
In recent years he had been a scout for the Redskins, an assistant coach at Cal Poly and a coach at Masada High in Gardena.
“He was a good guy, a passionate guy,” said former Cal Poly coach Rich Ellerson, who is now the coach at Army. “It’s a tragedy.”
Beathard remembers Kaufman as “a very cerebral guy.”
“He didn’t make many mistakes.”
One of Kaufman’s career highlights was an interception against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1982 NFC championship game, a play that propelled the Redskins into their first Super Bowl.
Former Redskin defensive back Darrell Green, a Hall Of Famer who was Kaufman’s teammate, remembers him as a special person.
“After all his success he didn’t change at all,” said Green. “He was like the guy next door.”