They Wear Jeans, Flip-Flops, Baseball Caps;
They Do Not Like Glamor or Admit Quarterbacks
Still Hogs after all these years, the Washington Redskins offensive line must belly-up to the Denver Broncos in Sunday's Super Bowl game here.
If Broncos quarterback John Elway plays as well as advertised, the best Redskins' strategy will be to keep him bored on the bench. To do this, Washington must control the ball and the clock or, in other words, be hogs.
In 1982, offensive line coach Joe Bugel just happened to begin a practice by screaming, "Let's go, you hogs," and his linemen followed single-file. Because the linemen were proud to be pigs, the nickname stuck, and it became a rallying cry that season as John Riggins ran the Redskins to a Super Bowl victory and so much more.
The Hogs became so well-known, they even had cheerleaders -- four large men in dresses and hog snouts. Quarterback Joe Theismann threw a key block one day and begged to be named an "honorary piglet." Pot bellies were in, and the Redskins had appropriately named running plays like "50 Gut."
Alas, it has mostly died down since then, with Bugel blaming that on the retirements of Riggins, Theismann and Head Hog, George Starke. Riggins is the only running back ever to be made a Hog, and current running backs George Rogers, Timmy Smith and Kelvin Bryant have no prayer of following in his footsteps.
The Redskins' offensive philosophy no longer is to pound defenses into oblivion, probably because their best players are passers and pass-catchers. On the other hand, Coach Joe Gibbs wouldn't mind controlling the ball for 40 minutes in Sunday's game.
The current group of Hogs has three charter members -- center Jeff Bostic and tackles Mark May and Joe Jacoby. Another original -- Russ Grimm -- rides the bench. The newcomers are guards Raleigh McKenzie and R.C. Theilemann, who each rate their ascension to Hogdom as one of life's most cherished moments.
Contrary to popular belief, new Hogs do not have to pass strenuous tests to join. "They don't make guys chug two gallons of beer," Theilemann said.
Instead, you're automatically a Hog if you start for most of the season. You know you're in when you find a Hogs T-shirt at your locker. New T-shirts are distributed every fall.
"Well, they're not the most expensive shirts in the world," Theilemann said. "They're T-shirts, and they're extra larges and they kind of fade after a few washes, so we have to replenish them after every year."
Every Thursday is "Hog Thursday," which means you must wear your shirt all day. If you forget to wear it -- like May has done a couple of times this year -- you're fined $ 50, though Bugel is thinking about increasing the penalty.
"[Bugel] says inflation's up, so he's up, too," May complained.
Still, May hasn't paid his fines yet.
"I will," he said this week.
Theilemann said he will believe that when he sees it. "He may be the toughest guy in the world to collect from," Thielemann said. "I think we'll never see that $ 50."
Theilemann, acquired in 1985 from Atlanta, was even a Hog in college -- an Arkansas Razorback. When he joined the Redskins, he immediately was reordained a Hog, though May said: "R.C. got off easy, I guess because he was an older, seasoned veteran."
Theilemann, reciting somewhat of a Hog anthem, said: "Hogs, it's the guys with no finesse. They call us dirt bags, lunch-pail guys, blue-collar guys. There are numerous names you can call us. We wear jeans, flip-flops, tennis shoes, baseball caps. We don't like the glamorous life and we work hard. We work hard every day."
Bugel's method of separating the Hogs from the men is putting them through what he calls "a pain and torture program." In other words, training camp.
Theismann never had to hit a blocking dummy every day, which is why he never made "piglet." Besides, Bugel said: "We don't want a quarterback in the gang."
Grimm gives Bugel 50 percent of the Hogs' credit. "Really, 50 percent is ability and 50 percent is Buges," Grimm said. "No kidding."
Theilemann thinks Bugel is ahead of his time in terms of teaching line play, and he explained, "We work on footwork until our feet fall off."
Bugel often gets linked to head coaching jobs, and the Hogs think they'll lose him someday. "When it happens," Grimm said, "I imagine he'll get a lot of phone calls."
Bugel, meanwhile, said this season's is his best line, though he added: "I think it'll have to win a Super Bowl" to be ranked side by side with the 1982 group. Clearly, there's more athleticism now than there was before with McKenzie, a superb pass blocker, and Theilemann, who is quick for a 6-foot-4, 265-pounder. The line's average weight, though, still is 279 pounds.
"I think the trend toward Hogs being fat guys is gone now," Theilemann said. "Seems like everybody's in better shape now. The wives are keeping us off the streets."
On the other hand, there are some imposing Hogs waiting in the pen -- 340-pound Wally Kleine and 320-pound Ed Simmons, both rookies. Kleine, drafted as a tackle, also will be tried at guard next season; Simmons started games at both guard and tackle this season.
"Those two, they're getting close to 400 pounds," said Bugel, who won't rule out the possibility of a line entirely of 400-pounders. In the meantime, the 279-pound Hogs will have to do.