The Washington Redskins, a franchise now it its 84th season, takes their history and tradition seriously. Unlike other sports franchises that make a habit of singling out players with the highest honor possible, retiring their jersey number, the Redskins only have one number, Sammy Baugh’s #33, that is officially taken out of circulation. However, there are clearly a handful of players who are synonymous with the number they wore in Washington, and will likely never be worn again out of respect for their last designee: 7, 42, 28, 43, 65, 81, and of course 21.
One of the Redskins most inextricably linked with their number is the immortal #44, John Riggins. His resume is as long and impressive as they come: a Super Bowl XVII Champion and MVP, a Pro Bowler and Bert Bell Award winner (1983), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1978), twice the NFL rushing touchdown leader in consecutive seasons (1983, 1984), and a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
Over the last 30 years, Riggins has become a transcendent figure and face of the franchise. He is immediately recognizable as one of the most well-known former athletes in the region. Riggins has continued his presence in football as a commentator, first in New York as a host of the Riggins and Russo show on WCBS-TV, then as radio broadcaster on AM, FM, and satellite stations for professional and NCAA games. Today, he can be heard on ESPN 980 throughout the week and as the Redskins’ pregame co-host alongside Kevin Sheehan.
Beyond football, John Riggins’ post-playing career has shown him to be a modern day renaissance man with talents and interests that have expanded well beyond the realm of sport in a variety of colorful, and perhaps unexpected ways.
He took acting lessons and starred in theater productions including Gillette and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream. He has taken his talents to the small screen with television roles on shows including Law & Order: Criminal Intent and One Tree Hill.
Riggins has cultivated a reputation as a rebel and a renegade, who has reinvented himself several times. He has leveraged his outsized persona in the business realm, having marketed his own line of pork sausages. Now a yoga-practicing vegan, Riggins maintains a connection to his past, recently partnering with Escutcheon Brewing to release the “4th and 1 Pilsner.” The beer, named in honor of John Riggins’ Super Bowl XVII winning run, a moment that has become the most iconic in franchise history.
The product, as you’ll see in the video below is the unpretentious personification number 44. It features the image of his now-famous shedding of would-be tackler Don McNeal en route to a 43-yard touchdown run. The play off the left side called “70 Chip” came on 4th and 1 with less than 10 minutes to go in the Super Bowl. Alongside the image of the moment, are the word “Losen Up,” a callback to Riggins’ protestations to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the Washington Press Club’s annual Salute to Congress Dinner. As the first female Justice was set to leave he called out, “Come on, Sandy baby loosen up. You’re too tight.”
To celebrate The Diesel in our continuation of Hogs Haven’s Redskins By The (Jersey) Numbers series, I sat down with Ken Meringolo and Tim Strachan on The Audible’s to conduct a very scientific tasting of Riggins’ namesake brew.
Since there’s no need to compare Riggins to any of his #44 predecessors, chime in on the comments below with your favorite memories of The Diesel. To learn more about the 4th and 1 Pilsner, check out Escutcheon’s website, and if you’re feeling so bold, check out Beer Advocate’s page on how to review a beer and let us know what you think.