"You go to the Pro Bowl," said R.C. Thielemann, "and people looking at your T-shirt ask you what your average is. They think you're part of the Pro Bowlers Tour. But you can always show 'em the Super Bowl ring. They know what the hell that is."

Such a football life Thielemann has lived: Pro Bowl and all-pro in the big leagues; all-ornery among other distinctions at Arkansas, for that episode involving him and the Vikings' Greg Koch with a machete their freshman year.

Still, Thielemann has gone 11 years in the NFL without being in the Super Bowl. So far from the ultimate Circus of the Sporting Stars most of his eight years with the Atlanta Falcons; so close two of his three years with the Redskins.

"I don't feel fulfilled, like last year," he said. "Seems like last year we were glad just to be in the {NFC} championship game. This year, nobody feels fulfilled yet, because we want to be in the Super Bowl."

The title of Thielemann's memoirs might well be: "Hogs Are People, Too." He earned his reputation for stellar play and mischief as a Razorback; he has graced Washington's football porkers since being traded here for another all-pro (receiver Charlie Brown) in the summer of 1985.

Ironically, he and Koch were best buddies in high school (Houston's Spring Woods) and college, then parted company for lousy NFL teams most of their careers. Come late afternoon Sunday at RFK Stadium, one of them will be headed for the Super Bowl.

"Pretty wild," Thielemann says.

That also would be the apt way of putting how they got asked to leave the football dorm as freshmen. Pretty wild and, for a couple of players at thinking man's positions, monumentally stupid.

"The Machete Massacre," said Thielemann, warming to the tale. "We're legends."

It seems Thielemann had found a machete on a beach in Galveston the summer before and stuck it in his car, where Koch found it while both were cruising campus one evening after spring practice.

"What he did was chop off the side-view mirrors of frat-rat cars," Thielemann said. "About 35 in all. We were driving down fraternity row and he starts whackin' 'em. Whap! Whap! We'd had a few pops, as you say.

"We ended up paying a pretty good piece for them. Thing is, we were so stupid. We drove back and looked at what we'd done -- and got caught. There were about 75 frat-rats saying: 'There they are.' Returned to the scene of the crime -- and got nailed.

"They kicked us out of the dorm; thought they were punishing us. But we got to stay in a co-ed dorm, in a room with a refrigerator that had beer in it. We had a pretty good time that semester."

As the Razorbacks' offensive line coach, Joe Gibbs persuaded Thielemann to attend Arkansas. Not long after Thielemann signed, however, Gibbs was off to join Don Coryell with the St. Louis Cardinals.

With the Redskins, Gibbs tries as hard to exaggerate the opposition to his players as he does to the press. He slipped once in 1986 -- and the players caught him at it.

"We played somebody early in the year," Thielemann said, "Somebody we should beat, and in his speech he said: 'These guys aren't that bad. The only team that's bad this year is Green Bay.'

"He'd forgotten we'd be playing 'em later in the year. So everybody said: 'We got him on this one.' Then Green Bay week comes up and he says: 'These guys are playin' a lot better; they're not really as bad as they used to be.' "

The coach was hooted into an embarrassed smile.

Before Thielemann arrived as a second-round draftee in 1977, the Falcons were bad in lots of ways. Players would fight among themselves, he said, sometimes in the huddle during games.

"The major character had to be {center Jeff} Van Note," Thielemann said. "He played till he was 41. Had to be the cheapest guy ever. Took the toilet paper from hotel rooms and the band-aids from the training room.

"One guy {defensive tackle Jeff Yeates} had a big scar on his face. He and the rest of the defense looked more like outlaws than athletes. But they could play.

"They were the Gritz Blitz, held our opponents to 129 points my rookie year. Jerry Glanville was their coach. He also had a screw loose. And from what I'm reading lately, he probably still does."

With a 12-4 regular season record, the Falcons seemed fully capable of getting to the Super Bowl after the 1980 season. At home during the NFC semifinals, they had a 27-17 lead on the Cowboys with five minutes to play -- and lost.

Thielemann has been hard-headed about being paid a just wage for services rendered. Twice he was a holdout with the Falcons, the second time prompting head coach Dan Henning to trade him to the Redskins.

Henning has returned to the Redskins, as an offensive aide, and Thielemann says: "Little does he know how much he helped me. Here I am, one game away from the Super Bowl."

Thielemann will be a free agent in February -- and plans to see how no collective bargaining agreement with the owners might affect his ability to negotiate. He quickly adds: "I'd just as soon stay here.

"I can't see an 11-year, 33-year-old guard going many places. Really, I'd just as soon be like an old elephant and die right here. Play out my career. I know they'll have to go with youth sooner or later."

For Thielemann, interest in the NFL seems to drain when his season ends.

"I hate to read all those Super Bowl stories," he said, "because I want to be there. I think all players in the league feel the same way. It's hard for me to watch the game. If I'm by myself, I won't watch it.

"Usually, there's a party. My agent has a party and we've always been available to go to it." He paused and said, very slowly: "But maybe not this year."