What’s in a nickname, Mr. Lebowski? Is it the alliteration? Is it the imagery it conjures up, or is it the knowledge that a player is good enough at their given sport to be bestowed When Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright helped ensure the Wildcats’ upset victory over No. 2 Oregon late Thursday night by ripping the ball away from Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, it got us thinking. Not just about who would replace Oregon in the latest College Football Playoff projection, if Michigan is regretting firing Rich Rodriguez, or any of those pesky football-related questions. No, Scooby Wright got us thinking about something a little more fun: Where does “Scooby” rank among the greatest football player nicknames of all time?
We decided to try and compile 25 of our favorite nicknames for your perusal and debate. With apologies to Big Ben, Broadway Joe, Iron Mike, Johnny Football, Mean Joe, etc., we restricted ourselves to actual “replacement” nicknames, as opposed to just a single adjective added on to the person’s first name. Nicknames are listed in alphabetical order. Enjoy.
1. All Day
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has gone by “All Day,” or A.D. for short, since his father gave him the nickname as a young boy because Peterson would never stop running.
2. Beast Mode
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has made quite a bit of money off this moniker, a term that speaks to his powerful running approach.
Former Buccaneers defensive lineman, ex-LSU standout, and current SEC Network analyst Anthony McFarland will always be known as “Booger” to us. Booger’s mom gave him the infamous nickname when he was just 2 years old.
Notre Dame’s student newspaper gave star back and future Steelers great Jerome Bettis (pictured) the well-known “Bus” nickname. Needless to say, it stuck.
A Birmingham-area sportscaster first dubbed Auburn tailback Carnell Williams “Cadillac” because of his smooth running style, and the nickname followed him to the NFL, first with the Buccaneers and later the Rams.
Pro Football Hall of Famer David “Deacon” Jones was obviously creative: He gave himself the legendary nickname — “No one would remember a player named David Jones,” he said — and is also credited with creating the term “sack” to describe tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.
While “Freak” has become a popular descriptive term for athletes in recent years (in fact, one writer puts together an annual “Freak List” each offseason), the nickname is still most recognizably associated with former Florida Gator, Tennessee Titan, and Philadelphia Eagle Jevon Kearse (pictured).
8. Galloping Ghost
One of the best football players of all time, Red Grange, received the nickname “Galloping Ghost” from sportswriter Warren Brown after one particularly ridiculous collection of touchdowns for the Illini.
9. Honey Badger
Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was known as “Honey Badger” at LSU before off-field problems got him kicked off the team. Mathieu has said that he’d be fine leaving that particular nickname in the past.
Former Bengal Elbert Woods, better known as “Ickey,” received that particular nickname because his younger brother couldn’t say Elbert properly. The resulting “e-e” sound somehow morphed into Ickey. And, let’s face it: We can all agree that the “Elbert Shuffle” isn’t nearly as cool-sounding a name.
Former NFL fullback and 1988 first-round pick Craig “Ironhead” Heyward received his nickname from lowering his head into would-be tacklers during street football games as a boy, according to The New York Times.
Orenthal James Simpson will forever be known as O.J., but during the football chapter of his life, that predictably translated to the USC Trojans and Buffalo Bills standout being referred to as just “Juice.”
Lions superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson was called “Megatron” by teammate Roy Williams during Johnson’s rookie year in Detroit. Seven years later, it seems like Johnson (pictured) has always been Megatron.
14. Minister of Defense
Hall of Famer Reggie White became an ordained Baptist minister at age 17, and White was known as “The Minister of Defense” from his time at the University of Tennessee through his NFL stops at Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Carolina.
16. Muscle Hamster
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back (and Boise State product) Doug Martin has been known as the “Muscle Hamster” since his college days because of his weightlifting prowess — or was it his girlfriend who had the name first? Martin’s not a big fan, and even held a contest for fans to try and select a replacement nickname.
17. Nigerian Nightmare
Christian Okoye, who played fullback for the Chiefs from 1987-1992 — why does it seem like running backs and fullbacks get all the nicknames, anyway? — was known as the “Nigerian Nightmare” in tribute to his homeland. The Enugu, Nigeria, native scored 40 touchdowns during his time in Kansas City and later published a book called The Nigerian Nightmare.
Bengals defensive back Adam Jones has been known as Pacman for most of his life. Jones’s mother gave him the nickname as an baby because of the sound he made eating from a bottle. As Jones tries to distance himself from a string of off-field incidents in his early NFL career, he has attempted to ditch the Pacman name.
19. Prime Time
Deion Sanders, one of the flashiest players to ever compete in professional football — well, professional baseball, too– was a big enough star to command multiple nicknames. Prime Time is the one that usually comes to mind first, but Sanders also answered to “Neon Deion.”
We don’t want to insult your intelligence by explaining exactly how former Chicago Bear William Perry got his “Refrigerator” nickname. Just check out the picture at the top of this page for a moment. Let’s move on, shall we?
21. Revis Island
Star cornerback Darrelle Revis has earned the “Revis Island” title because no opposing quarterback ever wants to throw at whichever receiver he’s covering. Revis now owns the trademark, as well, even if Revis Island isn’t actually a real place (to this fan’s disappointment).
Raghib Ismail, best known for his return prowess at Notre Dame (where he won a national title and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy), was first called “Rocket” by a high school track coach. Ismail’s blazing speed would pay dividends on the football field for years to come.
Ex-Michigan quarterback and current Jaguars jack-of-all-trades Denard Robinson is better known by the moniker of “Shoelace,” because the speedster is known for never tying his shoes.
Chicago Bears great and eventual Hall of Famer Walter Payton was known as “Sweetness” ever since college, when he set a national record with 363 points scored at Jackson State. Payton led the NFL in rushing for five seasons in a row, from 1976-1980.