Russ Grimm and the Hogs of lore paved the way for Washington Redskins greatness

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 7, 2010; 11:57 PM

Imagine in today's techno-obsessed NFL, where microchip-implanted footballs are now being considered to ensure down and distance, if a group of men walked purposefully to the line of scrimmage with nothing but their sneers. Then, instead of a false snap count or some other subterfuge to throw off the defense, they told the men across the line what play they were going to run.

And they ran that play, over and over, a virtual Groundhog Day, nine or 11 straight times, depending which former player has the best memory - in a game as inconsequential as, oh, the NFC championship.

With journeys to Canton, Ohio, being chronicled, with bronzed busts being unveiled at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that kill-the-clock drive that crumbled the Cowboys' morale should be remembered as the real beginning, when Russ Grimm and his Washington Redskins teammates bumped helmets and moved masses of angry, physical men, who finally no longer wanted to push back.

"We're getting ready to ice the game," Joe Theismann remembered that day against Dallas at RFK Stadium, Jan. 22, 1983. "We're linin' up. And Russ and Randy White [the Cowboys' Hall of Fame defensive tackle] had been at it all day. I mean this is a war. This is a physical, UFC, battle royal.

"So all of a sudden I get in the huddle and I call '60 Outside.' And Russ looks at me and he says, 'No.' "

Which made Theismann do a double-take.

"I said, 'What do you mean no? Joe [Gibbs] wants to run 60 Outside.'

"He says, 'I want to run '50 Gut' right at Randy.'

"Well now I gotta make an executive decision, you know, I'm middle management."

They ran the play Grimm, not Gibbs, wanted. White was run over and the Redskins gained four yards. Theismann looked back toward Joe Gibbs, two weeks before he guided the franchise to their first of three Super Bowls. The coach wanted his play run.

"Joe signals in 60 Outside," Theismann said.

"I step in the huddle. I go, 'Spread right, short motion, 60 Outside.'

"Russ goes: 'Didn't you hear me? No!'

"I said, 'Okay, fine.' We run 50 Gut again."

And White goes to the ground again. First down.

"Next play, I don't even look at the sidelines anymore," Theismann said. "We ran like 11 consecutive 50 Guts. It was just Russ Grimm against Randy White and we were going to absolutely pummel him to the ground. When I think of Russ Grimm and all the memories, this was his moment."

"I always felt the huddle wasn't a democracy," Theismann added, "until that particular time."

Former Redskins tackle George Starke reminisced by telephone Thursday night as he awaited his storm-delayed flight from Washington to Canton. "Nine of those times we ran it right up Randy's [behind]," he said.

Before every play, Starke recalled, ornery center Jeff Bostic looked at White across the line. "He said, 'Randy, you better dig in, we're coming again right at you,' " Starke said of Bostic. "He had a nasty . . . attitude. I loved Jeff.

"Then after every play, Mark May would kick Randy White in the butt because he didn't like him," Starke recalled. "Randy would punch Russ, who would get angry. Then we'd do it all over again."

After the Redskins scored to put away the game, amid the vibrating stands and bellowing roars, many of the Cowboys left the field before the game was over.

It is almost 30 years later, and the people who were either there or watched on television still ooze with the same basted-on memories and utter reverence. RFK, circa 1980s, was their Iowa cornfield, where they've been waiting to play catch with their father since.

If he showed, he would probably look like Gibbs or Joe Bugel, before the crevices in that squinting, smiling mug came and Buges was just a young, position coach trying to hold onto his job. And Buges would see the young, slovenly guard in training camp, rolling in the mud during a blocking drill, and remark: "Russ, get up. You look like a hog layin' on the ground."

And his teammates would show up the next day with the word "Hog" written on their practice jerseys. When Buges asked for an explanation, "We said, 'We're in solidarity with Russ, sir,' " Starke said. "You hurt his feelings when you called him a hog."

A nickname for an offensive unit was born that day for a team and a proud football town, which just happened to be the nation's capital.

Grimmie and the Hogs.

With a cooler loaded with Coors and Bud Lights and other assorted beverages - "They wouldn't discriminate if something else was brought in," Starke said - they bonded in a shed that housed the grass-cutting equipment by the practice field every day at a certain time.

The 5 O'clock Club, they called them.

It's where Riggo and friends could down a brew, Russ could chew his Copenhagen and Joe Jacoby could bring back his favorite sandwich from Merino's in Fairfax, two pieces of Sicilian pizza pressed together with chopped beef and white, runny cheese spilling over the sides - the Hog Cheesesteak, named for him.

"You ever hear the story of the day they asked John Madden and Pat Summerall to come over and see the shed?" Starke asked. "Four or five hours later, they both walked out totally drunk. They had to go interview Tom Landry because of a Cowboys game that week. I heard Landry saw them and was so angry he wouldn't let them interview his players. So the telecast that week was all about the Redskins. True story."

Fittingly, none of these tales are solely about Grimm. Because while he probably doesn't get into Canton if nemeses such as White and Matt Millen don't give testimonial interviews on his behalf, while the grit and gross-out antics have taken on a real-men lore of their own and Grimm was indeed as smart and athletic - once the team's third-string quarterback - as he was tough and nasty, he was just one.

They all planned to be there Saturday, from different Hog eras. Starke, the Head Hog. Bostic. Jim Lachey. Mark May. Rick "Doc" Walker. Jacoby, Donnie Warren, Mark Schlereth, Raleigh McKenzie. Jim Hanifan. Fred Dean.

Grimm's day is their day.

During his induction speech, Grimm never became emotional, but instead gave heartfelt thanks to the people who helped put him into Canton.

The greatest revelation was that he never wanted to play offensive line in college, but was told to move from linebacker to center by Pittsburgh Coach Jackie Sherrill. His position coach told Grimm, "There's no greater feeling than being able to move a man from Point A to Point B against his will."

"I tried it. I liked it. I played offensive line," Grimm said.

He finished his induction speech with a tribute to fans, especially the ones who blew 'Diesel' horns for John Riggins and turned every Sunday at RFK into "Friday Night Lights."

The names of his teammates on the Redskins offensive line, he said, would be embroidered inside his yellow Hall of Fame jacket.

Lachey proposed a novel idea in February when Grimm became the first of his linemates to get into Canton, 14 years after Grimm was eligible, 16 years after White, the man whose behind he kicked, was inducted.

Why not have a wing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame dedicated to the units of men who were better together than by themselves - the Steel Curtain, the Doomsday Defense, the Purple People Eaters, the Silver and Black Attack and, of course, the Hogs?

The Hogs' display would feature their mud-caked jerseys, their old coolers, empty beer cans and a black-and-white photo of Russ Grimm and his teammates trapped in time in that shed, reminiscing about the day they whooped Randy White and the Cowboys - the day the journey began.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company