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February 13, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Mel Kaufman, 50, a Los Angeles native who played in three Super Bowls as a linebacker for the Washington Redskins, died Feb. 7 at his home in Santa Margarita.

An autopsy determined he died of natural causes, specifically an intra-abdominal hemorrhage related to pancreatitis. Kaufman had complained of abdominal pains before his death.

Kaufman made the Redskins as a free agent out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1981 after catching the eye of Bobby Beathard, then the team's general manager.

Beathard, also a Cal Poly alumnus, was at the university to work out another player, defensive back LeCharls McDaniel. He ended up signing both.

Kaufman went on to start 78 of 91 games with Washington. He ended his playing career at the end of the 1988-89 season.

A team captain, Kaufman played on the Redskins' victorious Super Bowl teams in 1983 and 1988 and in the 1984 title game, which Washington lost to the then-Los Angeles Raiders.

After retiring, he served as the team's scouting supervisor for several years.

Kaufman was born Feb. 24, 1958, and earned two varsity letters in football at Santa Monica High School.

At 6 foot 2 and less than 220 pounds, Kaufman was considered undersized for a linebacker but after a redshirt year at Cal Poly, he started for four years on a team that won the Division II national championship in 1980. He graduated in 1984.

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