Chris Chester and Trent Williams weren't at Oklahoma at the same time but share more than “Sooner days” stories.
Starters on a dynamic offense that keyed the Washington Redskins' playoff run, Chester and Williams are modern generation “Hogs” who protect standout rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Led by Griffin, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, the Redskins have won five consecutive games to charge into a three-way tie atop the NFC East.
“This season is a glimpse of what we can be as an organization,” said Chester, a veteran right guard. “We have a great deal of potential. I'm excited about what we could be. The sky is the limit.”
The Redskins play at 1 p.m. game at Philadelphia on Sunday. Win their final two games and the they are in the playoffs for the first time in five years — and only third time in 13 seasons.
“This is the first time I've played in meaningful games in December that have playoff implications,” said Williams, a left tackle who was the No. 4 overall pick in 2010. “It's a very important time in my career.
“We've won five in a row but we have no time to sit back and marvel at what we've accomplished. We're still in a one-game season. For the last month it's like every game was almost the playoffs.”
Chester, 29, signed a five-year deal with the Redskins last season. His career NFL 77 starts include 30 consecutive starts in Washington. He's one of a handful of Redskins players with playoff experience, having played eight post-season games with Baltimore, including the 2008 AFC title game.
“We're maturing as a group,” Chester said. “Coach (Mike) Shanahan has had a great deal of success. There's a collective pool of knowledge and experience. Hopefully those of us who have been part of playoff runs can impose that on some of the guys new to this experience.”
The Redskins' long-term outlook looks bright because of Griffin. Williams and Chester see on film every week that if they protect Griffin, he can make plays with his legs and his arm.
“It's not common to do some of the things he's done as a rookie,” Chester said. “Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Wow.' He's a tremendous talent but for being such a young guy he has a lot of confidence and leadership.
“He's also willing to put in the work, learn and listen to coaches and veterans. He's humble, which will help him to continue to grow, give him a chance to be a special playmaker in this league for years to come.”
Williams said Griffin's attempt to play on a sprained knee two weeks ago against Baltimore earned respect in the locker room.
“He's very smart. He's very positive. He's very confident. He's a natural born leader,” Williams said. “But what teammates really like is he's a team-first player. No matter how much media hype he gets he's still the same old homeboy. Guys really take to that.”
Individually, Williams said his biggest challenge is playing consistently series to series, game to game.
“It really opens your eyes all the different situations compared to what you see in college,” Williams said. “You can have one of the greatest games of your life the first three quarters but in the fourth quarter you can get embarrassed. If that happens no one remembers the first three.
“It's very hard to have a lot success at this level. If they see a weakness on film, the next three or four opponents will try to exploit it. There are a lot of grown men that are paid a lot of money to make plays. I'm blessed to be here but it's a dog-eat-dog league.”
Chester arrived at OU as a 220-pound tight end. He's methodically worked in the weight room to reach 300 pounds to help him in the trenches.
“I feel good from where I was in college to where I'm at now,” Williams said. “But I feel I've been learning how to be a lineman ever since I got into the league. It's a constant growing experience. I continue to learn about the position.”
Regardless how the final two weeks unfold, the Redskins have a bright future.
“We're a real young team with a tremendous amount of talent,” Williams said. “We have key pieces in the right places, cornerstones the organization that can build around. But tomorrow isn't promised. Next season isn't promised so we're trying to concentrate on our opportunities this year.”