What Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins talked about at the NFL Combine. Rick Brown/The Register
CHICAGO – It didn't take long for Brandon Scherff to get his first history lesson as an NFL player.
"I've heard all about the Hogs, and I'm ready to be a part of that," Scherff said after going to the Washington Redskins with the fifth pick of Thursday's NFL Draft.
You remember the Hogs, right? The guys who protected Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and carved holes for running back John Riggins starting in the early 1980s? There was Jeff Bostic at center; Russ Grimm and Mark May at guard; and Joe Jacoby and George Starke at tackle. Don't forget Rick Walker and Don Warren at tight end too.
"We want to bring that mentality back to this football team," second-year Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
The fact that the Redskins passed on USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams, thought by some draft analysts to be the top prospect in the entire field, to take Iowa's Outland Trophy winner tells you that Gruden is serious.
Scherff played left guard as a redshirt freshman at Iowa. He finished his career at left tackle, but now he'll be moving again.
"He could probably play center if you wanted him to," Gruden said. "But I think from day one we start him out at right tackle. We have a Pro Bowl left tackle. Start him out at right tackle, and I'm sure he'll pick it up quickly."
Trent Williams has made the Pro Bowl three times at left tackle. Scherff has the potential to give the Redskins a terrific tandem of tackles.
"We understand there's a premium on great offensive tackles," Gruden said. "They're hard to find nowadays. When you have a chance to get one of this caliber, you have to stand up and take him."
Washington running back Alfred Morris was also excited by the selection of Scherff and went to Twitter to share his feelings Thursday.
Iowa's all-American tackle goes with 5th pick to Redskins Rick Brown/The Register
Morris rushed for 1,074 yards last season on a 4-12 team. But the running game was not a Redskins' strength. Washington ranked 19th in the NFL in rushing, at 105.7 yards a game.
Bill Callahan, the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach with Dallas the previous three seasons, was hired in the offseason to help change that. In his time with the Cowboys, their rushing offense went from 31st in the league in 2012 to 24th in 2013 and second in 2014.
"It's very exciting for us to get an offensive lineman, a guy who is going to play here a long time," Gruden said. "Tough, physical, get us back to the glory days of running the ball and being physical."
Gruden's brother, Jon, who coached Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title and is now an ESPN analyst, loved the Redskins' selection of Scherff and the football flashback it represents.
"He wants to bring back some of the history of the Redskins, and if you want to do that, you've got to have the Hogs, man," Jon Gruden said on ESPN's draft coverage Thursday. "And Brandon Scherff, a very complete offensive tackle at Iowa that has been well-trained by (Iowa coach) Kirk Ferentz, will bring something to the Redskins that the Redskins haven't had in a long time."
So now Mr. Scherff goes to Washington, trying to keep defenders off quarterback Robert Griffin III and opening space for Morris.
Jay Gruden loves Scherff's toughness, tenacity and non-stop motor. If Scherff can go from Hawkeye to retro Hog, Redskins fans will love him, too.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.