In the first of a series of articles on the seven individuals to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Dan Arkush profiles former Redskins OG-C Russ Grimm.
Imagine just how big "The Hogs" would be in this era of heightened 24/7 media coverage, tweeting away nonstop updates of their every move instead of snorting them.
Back in a simpler time, when I was just really starting to get my feet wet as a full-fledged pro football writer, it took no time at all before they became a huge fad, after coach Joe Bugel went public early in the Redskins' 1982 training camp with his nickname for the rather portly group of offensive linemen he had inherited.
"The Hogs" — from left to right, OT Joe Jacoby, OG Russ Grimm, C Jeff Bostic, OG Mark May and OT George "Head Hog" Starke.
In no time flat, Bugel's Redskins linemen became red-hot personalities, wearing their T-shirts with razorback hogs on them off the field and igniting a movement among Redskins fans to, quite literally, go "Hog wild," both in their appearance and adoration for a group that also included TEs Don Warren and Rick Walker.
It occurred to me the day before conducting a phone interview with Grimm — whose efforts with the Hogs are primarily responsible for his induction into the Pro Football of Fame next weekend — that it really is possible a significant portion of ProFootballWeekly.com's reading audience doesn't have any idea who the Hogs are, save for perhaps the growing number of football geeks who have become hooked on NFL Network retrospectives.
For verification, I threw a call into my son, Brandon, who is currently finishing up an internship at a fancy five-star hotel in Cape Cod before heading back to Southern Illinois University for his senior year and is as geeky about sports — and pro football in particular — as his proud papa.
"Hey, 'B.' " I asked him. "When I mention 'The Hogs,' does that ring a football bell with you?"
"Hmm," he said after a long pause. "It has something to do with the Redskins, right?"
I suspect that's probably pretty close to the extent many of you reading this column can relate to the same subject, which I find quite interesting, in addition to making me feel quite old.
When I mentioned to Grimm the next day how unfamiliar it seems the Hogs have become to so many present football aficionados far and wide, he laughed heartily before turning a bit wistful.
"There will never be another 'Hogs,' not with players coming and going in free agency the way they do today," he said.
Yes, it was a unique group indeed. But in the beginning, the Hogs were more than a little haggard.
"We started three rookies my rookie year — Jacoby; May, who played with me at Pitt; and myself," Grimm said. "Bostic played a half-season the year before (in Philadelphia) as a long-snapper. We started out 0-5, and Jacoby and I were living together. Many a night, we'd say, 'We're 0-3, 0-4, we gotta turn this around!' And Bugel was just hammering us!"
Bugel will be doing nothing but hammering out accolades this weekend as the presenter for Grimm on the hallowed steps of Canton. But suffice it to say there was no lost love for Bugel in the early days among the Hogs.
"In the beginning, we absolutely hated Bugel," Grimm said. "He screamed, he yelled, he cussed, he chewed us up and down in the film room. We kept thinking of ways we could get rid of the guy."
Until Bugel's tough love started paying off on the field.
"Eventually we got things together and finished 8-8," said Grimm. "And when we started winning football games, we learned to really love and respect the guy. Today, he's one of the few guys I could go up to and look in the face and tell him that I love him."
Grimm went on to talk about the special chemistry that the Hogs developed, both on and off the field.
"We went through those tough times at the start in '81 and then the players' strike in '82. I think that was a big thing as far as building a special chemistry and camaraderie. We were all basically the same age, all starting families at the same time, just a really tight group. Bostic, Jacoby and me played together for 11 years.
"There was a good bit of hanging out together. That's the biggest thing (Joe) Gibbs (endorsed) as a coach. "We'd go out to dinner, play golf, drink beers."
And wreak havoc on the football field, especially in the 1983 playoffs, when the Redskins offered up some of the most successful "smashmouth" football over a sustained period in NFL history.
If you don't believe me, check out these rushing totals for Redskins featured back and honorary "Hog" John Riggins in the '83 postseason — 37 rushes for 185 yards vs. Minnesota, 36-140 vs. Dallas in the NFC championship game and 38-166 in the victory over Miami in the first of three Redskins Super Bowl appearances.
"The toughest guy I ever played with," Grimm said of Riggins.
Before returning to the back rooms of the Arizona Cardinals' training-camp facilities to prepare for the camp that would be opening up a few days later as the team's assistant head coach/offensive line/running-game coordinator, Grimm politely painted a picture of his fellow Hogs in his mind's eye, starting with fellow Pitt product May.
" 'May Day' was a helluva college player," Grimm said. "He had those big feet and long arms. And he always talked during games.
"George (Starke) was the veteran. Him and (Joe) Theismann were the leaders, and we really looked up to them. (Starke) was actually kind of quiet and spent much of his time trying to calm down 'May Day.'
"Now Bostic, he was the feisty one in the group. If Bugel ripped into us, Bostic would take it upon himself to prove Bugel wrong.
"Joe (Jacoby) was the gentle giant. He wouldn't say two words, but once you got to know him, he would give you the shirt off his back.
"We won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks and three different running backs — but the same offensive line."
I suspect Grimm will be toasted to the max by his fellow Hogs this weekend in Canton, where the beer and spirits figure to flow freely, just like the old days.
I know I will be raising a glass myself — after I make sure to call my son, Brandon, to make sure he's watching Grimm in all his well-deserved glory.
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