ASHBURN, Va. -- As I walked around Redskins Park on Thursday, I kept bumping into folks who were headed to Canton, Ohio to attend Russ Grimm's induction to the Hall of Fame. For a team that leaned so heavily on its running game in the '80s and early '90s, it's amazing that it took so long for a member of those offensive lines to get elected.
But Grimm was the correct choice to represent the beloved Hogs. He was one of the more colorful players in Redskins history and a dominant offensive lineman. I've had a lot of talks with Cowboys Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White over the years, and invariably a lot of those discussions involve the great rivalry with the Redskins. Most teams were forced to double-team White, and the Skins were no exception. But Grimm was one of the few players in the league who could neutralize White (at times) on his own.
There's a great story about how offensive tackle Mark May used to taunt White. It apparently frustrated Grimm to no end because he was primarily responsible for blocking White. According to fellow Hog Joe Jacoby, Grimm had finally heard enough and he lit into May in the huddle.
"I know you've got a stiff over there, but you keep it up, and I'm coming after your ass," Jacoby recalled Grimm saying.
Grimm was apparently referencing Cowboys defensive end John Dutton as the "stiff." But Grimm had immense respect for White, and he didn't want May to give him any added incentive.
Washington went to four Super Bowls in an 11-year span with coach Joe Gibbs, and the Hogs played an enormous role in that run. Gibbs wasn't the most colorful quote in the game, but he truly appreciated having memorable characters on his team. Some of the stories about the Hogs would have made coaches cringe in this era, but Gibbs knew better than to try to curb their appetite for fun. Here's a story that Gibbs recently told former running back John Riggins:
"The one thing I'll always remember about Russ and Joe and that crew, they would always get away from us a little bit in those afternoons when we had those Wednesday scrimmages in Carlisle [Pennsylvania]," said Gibbs. "And I got in the huddle one night, and I mean, the smell of beer was so strong that I backed out of there after calling the play.
"And in between plays, I turned to [offensive line coach Joe] Bugel and I said I've got to tell you something right now, somebody in there has had some beers, OK? And Bugel went and got those guys. I don't know if you remember this, I kind of turned my back and walked off for a few minutes, he got everybody in the huddle and said this better be the best practice of your life or you guys are gonna be running wind sprints for the rest of your life. So Russ goes: 'I plead guilty.'"
Those linemen embraced the "Hogs" nickname because it suited their reputation for not taking themselves too seriously. But when they stepped on the field, there wasn't a more dominant group in the NFL. It took too long for a representative to be voted into the Hall, but now that it has happened, Grimm's the perfect choice. And in a lot of ways, all of the Hogs will be enshrined during Saturday's ceremony.
And if you see White cringe when Grimm's delivering his speech, you'll know he's thinking about that "50 Gut" play from the NFC title game in 1983.