Sports of The Times; Hoggish on the Redskins

Archive: The Hogs Articles

The New York Times
Sunday, Late City Final Edition

JOHN RIGGINS was elected a member of the fraternity of Hogs early this season when he showed he was not afraid to grovel in the earth with his offensive linemen.

He could win a lot more elections in this city after his utterly hoggish performance in the trough of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium yesterday, when he carried the ball 36 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns as he helped move the Redskins into the Super Bowl wth a 31-17 victory over hated Dallas.

There was nothing beautiful about Riggins and the other Hogs -nine offensive linemen who make the Redskins go. But even with seven and eight Cowboys bunching up in the middle, Riggins was able to dive and slash and push and crawl his way to 140 yards, behind the broad backs of the Hogs.

The result thrilled the capital city, where banners hung this week praising the Hogs and vilifying Dallas in about equal proportions. Washingtonians come from everywhere, but except for those Washingtonians from the north end of Texas, they soon learn to hate the sight of the blue-and-silver Cowboy uniform.

Yesterday was cause for an orgy of emotion among 55,045 fans -with nary a ticket-holder missing -as the old-fashioned burgundy uniforms milled and stomped over the space-age coldness of the Cowboys.

The Cowboys were the only team to beat the Redskins this season, holding Riggins to 26 yards in a 24-10 victory in the fifth game. They had beaten the Redskins six straight times in their rivalry.

”This was an emotional game,” said Joe Jacoby, a typically unheralded member of the Hogs. ”It’s always a little more emotional when we play them.”

Riggins, a thick and sure-footed 33-year-old back, has played 11 years in the league without playing in a championship game. He said afterward: ”I’m real thrilled with this. To tell you the truth, after the strike I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue the season. I was ready to pack my bags and head for Kansas. Boy, what a mistake that would have been.”

If he had gone, he would have taken this Super Bowl trip with him. The Redskins have any number of important players, but they would go nowhere without the quiet man from Kansas.

After the Cowboys’ victory on Dec. 5, ”we decided to play our kind of football, to get more physical,” said Russ Grimm, the left guard. ”We put in a one-to-one system, with Jeff Bostic in the middle going either way.”

The Redskins were physical the first time they got the ball, down by a field goal. They handed the ball to Riggins, right up the middle.

”That first play,” Jacoby said. ”John went right behind us, and it was like a big V-wedge moving ahead. That set the tempo. I knew John could do it.”

Thereafter, the Redskins just lowered their heads and pushed forward and let Riggins carry it, further justifying his election as a member of the Hogs.

Of all the honors Riggins may achieve in his career, the one that should mean the most to him is his inclusion in the Hogs. They don’t just go accepting anybody.

The Hogs wouldn’t accept Joe Theismann, and he’s merely the quarterback of the team. They wouldn’t have Art Monk and Charlie Brown, their leading receivers, and Dexter Manley, a defensive right end who tipped the key interception to Darryl Grant, can’t even get in with his out-of-date Fairfax County deputy sheriff’s badge.

Grant, who scored the clinching touchdown with an interception, the first touchdown of his career, can’t even get a Hog T-shirt because he was switched from the offensive to the defensive line in summer camp.

The Hogs are particular, but they voted Riggins into the clan after the second game of the season, when he gained 136 yards in 34 carries against Tampa Bay. Their other members are: Jacoby, George Starke and Donald Laster at tackle; Grimm, Fred Dean and Mark May at guards; Bostic at center, and Rick Walker and Don Warren, the tight ends who commit the rather un-Hoggish act of catching the football but also perform inside blocking.

”We’re blue-collar guys all the way,” explained Grimm, the second-year guard. ”If we don’t play football, we don’t have any other job.”

The Hogs are hard-working types who do their jobs to the beat of the quarterback’s cadence, who block for the quarterback and open holes for Riggins.

”Sure, he’s the highest-paid guy on the team,” Grimm said. ”But look at him – army boots and camouflage jacket, a typical bluecollar guy like us. He’s no speedster, he’s not one of those nifty runners. He’s from the old school. John says, ‘You block for me, I’ll get some yards for you.’ ”

The Hogs like that kind of elemental, nose-in-the-ground talk. Let the receivers have their Fun Bunch Five, jumping in the air in the end zone and doing gymnastics after an aerial touchdown. Hogs don’t jump, they root in the earth.

The Hogs were not looking for publicity but merely for camaraderie when they formalized their fraternity earlier this season. ”All good offensive lines hang out together,” said Starke, the former Columbia University basketball player.

They started meeting at May’s house to ”watch television and chug a few beers, stuff like that,” Grimm said. ”We had some T-shirts made up but we wanted to keep it small and private. It was just a way of showing we have a lot of pride as offensive linemen.”

They have been patched together under an assistant coach, Joe Bugel, as Coach Joe Gibbs and General Manager Bobby Beathard tried to rebuild a franchise without the draft choices that had been traded away in the George Allen era.

”We don’t have any all-pro linemen, and Dallas has a lot of allpro linemen,” Starke said. Did that help the Redskins prepare for Dallas? He replied, ”You never need help to get ready for Dallas.” The Redskins won the last three games of 1981 and have won 11 of 12 this year. The Hogs had a lot to do with it, opening room for Riggins to gain 553 yards in nine regular games and 444 more in the three playoff games.

The public even began paying attention to the linemen who wear their Hog T-shirts to practice one day a week and who fine their forgetful members $5, to be used for a barbecue at the end of the season.

”We’re not trying to make a big thing out of it,” Grimm said, looking slightly uncomfortable. ”We don’t have anything for sale. We’re not endorsing anything. We’re just proud of our play.”

In his quiet way, Riggins was proud to have been chosen for the Hogs. ”John’s the type of guy who is hard to get close to,” Grimm said. ”He doesn’t chatter away. I don’t think he lets people get close to him, but he lets you know if you make a good block. He’s great to play with.”

Bostic said: ”John’s getting into the downhill side of his career. He’s 8-10 years older than most of us. He never made the Super Bowl when he was with the Jets. I know he wants one.”

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by George Vecsey

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