In some ways 34-year-old George Lawrence Starke—Columbia University graduate, political activist, carpenter, avid cyclist, filmmaker, promoter of reggae music, erstwhile actor and schoolteacher, aspiring TV mogul, writer, Caribbean hedonist, the man who brought Winston (Yellowman) Foster to the attention of Joan Mondale and, oh yes, an offensive captain of the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins—is the least prepossessing member of the Skins' renowned offensive line. That line is, of course, known as the Hogs, and it's the most famous unit on a team that also includes the Fun Bunch and the Smurfs.
Starke is at least six years older than any of the other eight linemen, including subs, who count as Hogs, and 10 years older than five of them, a truly negative distinction. He has been a starter at right tackle for the last nine years but has never won any postseason honors. He's strong but not the strongest, big but not the biggest, quick off the ball but not the quickest. He's an excellent pass blocker and more than adequate on the run, but it's the left side of the Skins' line, anchored by Guard Russ Grimm and Tackle Joe Jacoby, that deservedly gets most of the acclaim.
Starke makes decent money, $165,000 a year, but that's not much more than the minimum of $140,000 for an 11th-year player; Guard-Tackle Mark May, who's going into his third season, already makes $105,000, and could pick up another $20,000 in incentive bonuses. Starke has no such bonus clauses. He is good-looking—modest Afro and mustache, cool sleepy eyes under dark prescription shades, great legs—but among the Hogs any modeling jobs would more likely go to the sleek tight ends, Don Warren and Rick (Doc) Walker. Starke is famous in Washington, where he lives year-round, but even there he's often mistaken for May, who rode into town on a wave of first-round draft choice publicity two years ago.
However, Starke has a title, and the others don't. He's Head Hog. These days that means far more than captain.
Originally the Hogs comprised only the Skins' offensive linemen: Starke and Jacoby, guards Grimm, Fred Dean and May (plus two others no longer with Washington, Melvin Jones and Ron Saul), Center Jeff Bostic and tight ends Walker and Warren. Running Back John Riggins argued that in life-style (he lives on a farm in Kansas) and temperament he was a Hog. The Hogs eventually agreed and admitted him. All you need to know about the Hogs as an exclusive club is that a free spirit like Riggins petitioned for membership and was accepted, while a walking conglomerate like Quarterback Joe Theismann asked in and was rejected. To all these porkers, even to Riggins, Starke is Head Hog.
"George's role isn't something we sat around and thought up," says Jacoby. "It just kind of came about because we all look up to George, expect him to be the leader. He's always cool and calm in the games, and he's always there when we need him off the field."
Even non-Hogs feel that way about Starke. "There are some guys who are great players who aren't necessarily great for the team," says Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs. "George is good for the team. Intelligent, team-oriented, a great sense of humor, a guy who keeps people loose. A successful team has to have a guy or two like George Starke."
Off the field Starke holds the reins of Hog leadership even more securely than he does on it. The Hogs aren't the best offensive line ever, but they're surely the first to be incorporated. Credit Starke, who three months ago formed Super Hogs, Inc. "After we became famous Washington went absolutely crazy with Hog products," says Starke, "and because we weren't incorporated, we never got a penny. For me, it was a natural. I can put together a company in a second."
Indeed, he had already launched Starke-Reid Televideo, KSR Group and George Starke Communications, but more on them later. "One thing I really didn't need was another company," Starke says, "but I just couldn't resist. I want these guys to make some money out of this. We could've gone into it halfway and made a couple hundred dollars on T shirts or something, but I don't go into things halfway."
No, he doesn't, and because of his aggressiveness the Hogs should get more than their share of the porkpie. Starke has contracted with a manufacturer to produce pennants, T shirts, bumper stickers, key chains, buttons, sports bags, painters' hats, etc., all of them featuring the official Hogs logo—a befeathered, winking hog. Can a line of Hogette products be far behind?