Sports of the Times; Hogs in Three-Piece Suits
By: Dave Anderson
Category: Washington Redskins News
Thursday, Late City Final Edition
By the nature of their role, offensive lines toil without attention, usually without a nickname, always until now without a corporation. Block and be quiet. One of the few lines ever to emerge as even slightly famous was the Electric Company, which turned on the juice for O. J. Simpson in Buffalo a decade ago. Around that time the Miami Dolphins also had their Mushrooms.
''They called us that,'' Bob Kuechenberg said, ''because we were kept in the dark.''
But as Super Bowl XVIII approaches, the Hogs have joined Miss Piggy and the Three Little Pigs as the most storied swine in history. These are prize Hogs on the cleat instead of the hoof - the five offensive linemen, two tight ends and the fullback John Riggins - who will be helping the Washington Redskins defend their National Football League championship Sunday against the Los Angeles Raiders.
At stake is the Hogs' corporate future in three-piece suits, not shoulder pads. If the Redskins were to lose, would it be possible, or proper, for them to maintain Super Hogs Inc. as the title of the firm that grossed $150,000 last year?
At their office in Washington, the Hogs license 40 products, from pig snouts and T-shirts to posters and the ultimate contradiction in terms, Hog quiche. Their office also handles Hog appearances and speaking engagements, with 15 percent of the corporate income going to Martha's Table, a soup kitchen in Washington for homeless children.
''It's something we did not to make a profit off of,'' the left guard Russ Grimm was saying now. ''We just did it to bring the team together and bring the Washington fans together. But now it's a term we have to live up to.''
It's also a term that Russ Grimm is considering abandoning in order to join the Pittsburgh Maulers of the United States Football League if he doesn't sign a new Redskin contract before Feb. 1, when he would become a free agent.
''I don't want to talk about that contract situation now,'' Russ Grimm said. ''When the Super Bowl is over, I'll get all the facts on the table from both teams and make my decision. By myself. I don't have an agent, I don't need one. I know what I'm worth.''
But at least one Hog would not resent Russ Grimm's leaving the pigpen.
''If Russ were to go to the U.S.F.L.,'' said the right tackle George Starke, ''it would affect the group to a degree, but as a Hog and as a friend, I'd be supportive. The bottom line of this business is to make money. If he can make more money, good for him.''
George Starke's title is the Head Hog, not to be confused with the Boss Hog, alias Joe Bugel, the Redskins' assistant head coach-offense, who baptized them.
''In training camp before the 1982 season,'' George Starke recalled, ''Coach Bugel looked at Russ Grimm and said, 'You are a prototype hog.' After that, it just caught on among us and the tight ends, then we made John a member, too.''
George Starke, once the center on Columbia basketball teams with Jim McMillian and Heyward Dotson and now a film-maker, is also the senior Hog at age 35, but all the other linemen are young. In height and weight, these Hogs are huge:
Left tackle: Joe Jacoby, 6-7, 311, age 24, a free agent from Louisville signed as a defensive lineman, third season.
Left guard: Russ Grimm, 6-3, 292, age 24, a third-round choice from Pittsburgh, where he had been a center, third season.
Center: Jeff Bostic, 6-2, 258, age 25, a free agent from Clemson, fourth season.
Right guard: Mark May, 6-6, 295, age 24, first-round choice from Pittsburgh, third season.
Right tackle: George Starke, 6-5, 270, age 35, free agent from Columbia, 11th season.
If those five Hogs were prodded into a stockyard, their weights would add up to 1,426 pounds, give or take their latest meal. Including the two tight ends, 245-pound Don Warren and 243-pound Rick Walker, and 235- pound John Riggins, the 8 Hogs weigh a total of 2,149 pounds, more than a ton. And yesterday, wearing a camouflage outfit, John Riggins was asked to provide a capsule description of the Hogs he loves to run behind.
''Joe Jacoby,'' he said, ''Interstate 66, go West, young man, go West. He's gonna be around a few years. ''Russ Grimm, he'll be a tremendous player for the Maulers once they land him. Jeff Bostic, the best center in the league. Mark May, none to compare with him, U.S. 373.
''George Starke, like myself, us dinosaurs have managed to escape evolution.''
Those five Hogs enabled John Riggins to set a Super Bowl record
with 166 rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins last year as the Redskins accumulated a record 276 rushing yards in their 27-17 victory. But if the Redskins are to win their second Super Bowl ring, the Hogs must block effectively not only for John Riggins but also for the quarterback, Joe Theismann.
''Theismann hasn't been hurt,'' Lyle Alzado was saying yesterday, ''but I don't think anybody has put a good shot on him.''
To accomplish that, Lyle Alzado must get by Joe Jacoby, an all-pro as big as a building. In the Redskins' 37- 35 triumph over the Raiders early this season, the bearded defensive end had only one tackle and shared one sack.
''Jacoby's one of the better tackles. He's good,'' Lyle Alzado acknowledged reluctantly. ''I'm not going to say he's great. He's not as great as Jim Brown, as Deacon Jones, as Forrest Gregg.''
After the Raiders won the American Football Conference title, Lyle Alzado talked about ''tearing off'' John Riggins's head if the opportunity develops. When the Redskin fullback was reminded of that threat yesterday as he stood at the lectern in his only public appearance this week, he smiled.
''Over at the stadium yesterday at photo day I was looking for a nice soft spot on the grass, so that when he knocks my block off, it won't bounce too far,'' John Riggins said. ''I hope he's enough of a gentleman so that when my head falls off, he'll hand it back to me.''
Told later of John Riggins's response, Lyle Alzado laughed.
''I'll put his head back,'' the bearded Raider said, smiling, ''as long as he takes the cleat marks out of my chest.''
Make that Hog hooves out of his chest, not cleat marks.
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