A look back - Joe Jacoby

When Olympian gold medal winner Jeff Rouse spoke to a group of swimmers recently in rural Virginia, one parent stood out. But at 6-foot-7 and nearly 300 pounds, former Washington Redskins offensive tackle Joe Jacoby has always stood out.

Like many people, Jacoby wanted a chance to hold Rouse's gold medal. Rouse, who grew up in Stafford, Virginia, watching Jacoby help the Redskins to four Super Bowls in a 10-season span, wanted a chance to hold one of Jacoby's sparkling Super Bowl rings. Both men were happy. Jacoby then asked his 9-year-old daughter and budding swimming star Lauren if she wanted a chance to hold the gold medal.

"Nah, I'm going to get my own someday," Lauren replied.

That confidence comes from having a dad who turned himself from a raw-talented free agent — nearly cut in his first training camp — into a Pro Bowl left tackle. A dad who, along with a bunch of other beefy linemen nicknamed the "Hogs," paved the way for the Redskins' devastating running game of the 1980s.

Lauren and her seven-year-old sister, Jenna, are too young to remember much about dad's playing days. Jacoby's 13-year-career came to a halt after the 1993 season.

But that doesn't mean the fans have forgotten. Whether at his auto dealership in Warrenton, Virginia, or at one of his daughter's swim meets, the fans remember.

"I was at the Giants-Redskins game, and the fans were coming up to me in the parking lot saying ‘We need you. We need you back,'" Jacoby said.

Jacoby admits that he still "gets that feeling on game day."

"You get the juices going," Jacoby said. "But the body has seen those days, and the body doesn't want to see those days again."

Jacoby is trying to take care of his body. He says his weight is down under 290 from his playing days of 320 or higher. He has the usual ailments that come with such a long NFL career — surgery on two ankles, major knee problem, ailing left elbow and two bad discs in his back.

While still involved with football through radio and television work, Jacoby's full-time job is running his Jeep, Eagle, Chrysler and Plymouth dealership.

And it is his business. Unlike some athletes who get a cut of a business by lending their name to a marquee, Jacoby runs the dealership he first joined in 1988 while still playing.

It took Jacoby six months back then to convince Redskins statistician and dealership owner Rick Hunt that he was serious about learning the car business. Hunt finally relented and Jacoby attacked the auto world with the same determination that made him into one of the dominant linemen in football.

"Every offseason I would pick a department and learn everything about it. I worked in the service department, parts, used cars, trucks, the body shop," Jacoby said.

After eight years of apprenticeship, Jacoby bought out Hunt's share of the dealership two years ago.

"I like that I don't have to answer to anybody," Jacoby said.

"I'm here every day. I keep abreast of what's going on. I'm hands on. I buy all my used cars."

Life is good for the kid from Louisville. He lives on a 40-acre spread outside of Warrenton with his wife Irene and his two daughters. They can watch the deer grazing in the morning and the sun setting on the Blue Ridge Mountains at night.

Not bad for a player who walked onto a team in 1981 that already had made two offensive linemen their top picks in the draft that year — Mark May and Russ Grimm.

Jacoby, May and Grimm — along with Jeff Bostic, who joined the team in 1980, and veteran George Starke — would form the basis of the famous Hogs.

First Jacoby had to make the team. Always big in size, Jacoby entered high school at 6-2 and 210 and then grew five inches between his freshman and sophomore years. He never really worked on his strength.

Even at hometown college Louisville, he just went through the motions when it came to weight training and relied instead on his sheer bulk for blocking ability.

That wouldn't cut it in the NFL. Redskins line coach Joe Bugel talked to Jacoby in January after his senior season and gave Jacoby some important advice: "You have a chance to make it in the NFL, but you must get bigger."

Jacoby started lifting weights three days a week and running the stands at the fairgrounds in Louisville. By the time Jacoby went to the Redskins minicamp four months later, he had increased his bench press from 300 to 400 pounds.

He also had put on about 30 pounds, increasing his weight from 275 to 305. And he increased his quickness, running a 40-yard dash in 5 seconds flat.

Things started off badly. First, Jacoby says Gibbs did his best to try to find a way to cut the free agent lineman, but he stuck. Then, the team started 0-5 under the new head coach.

But everything turned around by the next training camp, during which Bugel had stuck the "Hogs" moniker on his young linemen.

"Bugel was trying to build unity and closeness," said Jacoby, who spent the early years rooming with Grimm in an apartment that some said was decorated with pizza boxes and fast-food bags.

The Redskins won the Super Bowl in the 1982 season behind a running game that featured the Hogs blowing holes open for running back John Riggins. Washington's most famous play was the counter trey, and it was run over Jacoby's side.

The following year, they were the top team in the NFL and made it to the Super Bowl again, this time losing to the Los Angeles Raiders in 1983. It also marked the first of four straight trips to the Pro Bowl for Jacoby.

The amazing thing about Jacoby and the Hogs was not necessarily their success — two more Super Bowl wins in 1987 and 1991 — but their staying power.

They were the blocking force behind Washington's six greatest offensive seasons of all time (‘83, ‘91, ‘84, ‘89, ‘90, ‘87) and they helped 13 different backs break the 100-yard rushing mark in a game 65 times.

From Riggins to George Rogers to Kelvin Bryant to Gerald Riggs to Earnest Byner to Reggie Brooks, the holes were there.

Jacoby's 170 games as a Redskin ranks 11th all-time for the club. He will become eligible for the Hall of Fame in a year.

"It would be a great honor to cap off a career, especially for a guy that wasn't supposed to be anywhere," Jacoby said. "It would be a fitting end to a great run."

This article was originally published on December 7, 1997


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