Sunday, First Edition
Jacoby, Grimm, Bostic, May and Starke. On the field, they bowled over defenders, cleared holes that made 1,000-yard rushers out of castaway running backs, and led the Washington Redskins to four Super Bowls.
Off the field, they made being a stout, portly offensive lineman almost fashionable.
Two are gone. The other three are at the end of their careers, often nursing injuries.
Two decades from now, will anyone remember?
Oh, yeah, they’ll remember. Maybe not their names. After all, few can rattle off the names of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.
But collectively, the five Redskins have become part of the NFL lore alongside the “Fearsome Foursome” of the Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s and the “Purple People Eaters” of the Minnesota Vikings a decade later.
Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Jeff Bostic, Mark May and George Starke transformed offensive linemen from unheralded blockers to NFL celebrities.
In their heyday — 1982 through 1991 — the Hogs inspired T-shirts, pennants, snouts, an entire line of clothing. For a while, there was even Hog beer.
“The thing just exploded,” recalled Grimm, the left guard in the original 1982 quintet and now a tight ends coach for the Redskins.
“It got so big that you could ask a person in Alaska, who are the Hogs? And the answer would come back, Washington’s offensive line.
“It was just like we were professional wrestlers. We took a lot of pride in it.”
Originally, the tag wasn’t intended to be flattering.
Joe Bugel, then the Redskins’ offensive coordinator, came up with it while looking across the field at training camp and seeing the prodigious bellies of Grimm and Bostic hanging over their belts.
“OK, you hogs, let’s go down in the bullpen and hit those sleds,” Bugel hollered.
In the heat and humidity of August in Carlisle, Pa., Grimm and Bostic soon shed some of the fat, but the nickname stuck. Pretty soon, Bugel and head coach Joe Gibbs were using it with reporters as the Redskins began the march to their first Super Bowl.
Grimm and Jacoby were second-year players at the time. Bostic and May were in their third years.
The only real veteran was Starke, the right tackle who, because of his decade in the league, became the “Head Hog.”
The whole idea, Bugel said, was to give a group of inexperienced lineman a sense of cohesion and pride. Bostic and Jacoby had both come into the league as free agents, their college careers at Clemson and Louisville not distinguished enough to warrant a draft pick.
“Some guys might have resented it, but these guys loved it,” Bugel said.
Opposing coaches would hang posters of hogs in their locker rooms the week of a game with the Redskins.
Grimm recalls opposing linebackers boasting about making bacon of him.
Bugel, the “Boss Hog,” bought them all T-shirts. Any Hog caught at Redskins Park not wearing one was fined $ 5, the money financing a postseason barbecue and beer bust at Bugel’s home.
“I remember we played one game really bad, I think it was against Houston,” Grimm said. “They got us for a couple of sacks. I still remember Buges saying, ‘Turn your shirts back in; you don’t deserve to wear them.’
“That really hurt. Buges was not only a coach, he was a father figure.”
It worked. In their debut season, Starke and the four newcomers formed one of the top offensive lines in football. Anchored by Bostic at center, their blocking paved the way for Joe Theismann’s 13 touchdown passes in a strike-shortened 1982 season.
On the heels of Grimm and Jacoby clearing out defensive linemen before him, John Riggins, a New York Jets castoff, ran for 119, 185 and 140 yards in the three playoff games leading to the Super Bowl, where he collected another 166 yards in a victory over the Dolphins.
Riggins scored 24 touchdowns the next year, still a league record. He was so grateful he gave each of his Hogs a $ 2,000 Weathersby rifle, made for hunting rhinos and elephants.
In later years, the Hogs opened up similar holes for the likes of George Rogers, Gerald Riggs and Earnest Byner, refugees from other teams who found new lives behind the Redskins’ line.
Riggins and defensive ends Donny Warren and Rick Walker were voted “Honorary Hogs” for their blocking prowess. But when Theismann made a block one game and asked to be made an Honorary Hog, he was voted down.
Being a Hog, Theismann was told, requires much more than making a block. It takes an attitude. Riggins had it; Theismann didn’t.
“Hey, Riggo was The Man; I mean he is The Man,” Grimm said. “When we were rookies and missing blocks and he was getting hit, he never said a word. I’ve never seen the guy get really excited. He’d score a touchdown and just hand the ball to the official. He never spiked it; never danced. He was just a blue-collar, hard-nosed tough guy.”
That’s how the Hogs saw themselves.
Starke, the most cerebral of the bunch, returned to his alma mater, Columbia University, after the Super Bowl to get an award for distinguished pro achievement.
He recalled abandoning a speech he’d spent four days preparing and getting a standing ovation when, after an introduction, he stood and said simply, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am Head Hog.”
Starke, now 45, was the first to leave the group, retiring in 1985. Bugel left in 1989 to become head coach of the Phoenix Cardinals.
May went to San Diego in 1991 as a free agent after spending the entire 1990 season sidelined with a knee injured in 1989. A year later he rejoined Bugel in Phoenix. Next year, he could be the only original Hog still playing.
Grimm retired after the 1991 Super Bowl season. Jacoby and Bostic are still on the Redskins’ roster, but both were penciled in as backups in 1993.
With Washington’s offensive line devastated by injuries, Bostic has started at center on a bad knee most of the season. Jacoby started once, too, until a herniated disc, the latest in a long line of injuries, knocked him out for the season.
Neither has announced his retirement. But with the Redskins having to cut their payroll 25 percent to meet next year’s salary cap, both have been given a message that it might be time to retire.
“I was telling Boz just the other day that, ‘Before we’re all gone, I want to get a picture of you, me and Jake sitting on three Harley motorcycles,’ just to have it,” Grimm said.
“I think the name will always be there,” he said. “If it fades away, it fades away, just like we all do. But at the time, when it was happening, it was great.”
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Chicago Sun-Times