Mark May called the Redskins the other day and made a simple request. If you have the opportunity, he told them, please draft me on the first round.

"Mark didn't realize how badly we wanted him, too," General Manager Bobby Beathard said. "But we really didn't think we had any chance of getting him on the 20th turn. No chance at all."

Beathard was wrong. When the Redskins' turn in the first round came up yesterday, May, who had been rated by the club as the ninth best player in the draft, was still on the board.

In a draft loaded with great offensive trackles, the Redskins had May rated behind Keith Van Horne of USC. Van Horne went quickly in the draft, the 11th pick. But at that point May and another standout, Standford's Brian Holloway, still were left. So was defensive tackle Donnell Thompson of North Carolina, the player Washington would have selected if it still had the ninth choice in the opening round.

"When it got to the 18th turn and May, Holloway and Thompson were still left, I knew we would get one of them," Beathard said. Thompson was taken by Baltimore after a trade with Minnesota, New England took Holloway and Washington chose May, who has given up only one sack the last 2 1/2 years.

"I was really impressed with the organization and the people when I visited here a couple of weeks ago," May said. "I wanted to play here, more than with Tampa Bay or Dallas or New York or the other places I visited." t

May once weighed 323 pounds, before his junior year, before going on a strenuous diet. A fine banquet speaker, he dropped out of school this semester while getting ready for the draft. He intends to finish work for a degree but now works as a trainee for a Pennsylvania bank.

"His biggest asset is his intelligence," Pittsburgh Coach Jackie Sherrill said. "He's a student of the game. He'll do anything it takes to be a better player. Anything else you've heard about him is wrong. He sprinted to get his speed up and worked on the weights, but he got better every year he was here."