NFL history is full of players who put their own mark on the game, often receiving a nickname in the process. Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis will forever be remembered as “The Bus.” Linebacker Thomas Henderson will go down in history as “Hollywood.” Former offensive lineman Mark Schlereth also has an indelible nickname, though one that may not seem as desirable: “Stink.”
Let’s look back at Schlereth’s time in the NFL, and then as a broadcaster, before recounting the story of his nickname and how it lives on.
Mark Schlereth’s NFL career
The Washington Redskins selected Schlereth with the 263rd pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. In his 12-year career, he ultimately proved himself a far more impactful player than his 10th-round status would suggest. He spent most of his career playing the guard position on the offensive line, first for the Redskins and then for the Denver Broncos.
According to Pro Football Reference, Schlereth earned two Pro Bowl selections, in 1991 and 1998. If injuries hadn’t impacted his career — Schlereth endured a whopping 29 surgeries in his career, according to ESPN — there’s a good chance he would’ve played in even more Pro Bowls.
A better indicator of Schlereth’s value is the fact that he contributed to three Super Bowl victories. The first came with the Redskins, who defeated the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. The second two came with the Denver Broncos when John Elway-led teams won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII.
Schlereth’s transition to broadcasting
Schlereth retired from pro football in 2001 when injuries finally forced him out for good. He soon embarked on a second career as a sports radio show host in Denver. According to Fox Sports, his co-host on that show, known as Drivetime Sports, was fellow former Broncos lineman David “Doc” Diaz-Infante.
By 2004, Schlereth left his show in Denver to take on a full-time position with ESPN. It saw him make frequent appearances on both NFL Live and SportsCenter. More recently, Schlereth is doing color commentary for Fox NFL games. He is also a frequent guest and fill-in host on several top-tier NFL podcasts and radio shows like Mike and Mike in the Morning to The Pat McAfee Show.
The story behind Mark Schlereth’s nickname
Schlereth’s “Stink” nickname has continued to follow him throughout his broadcasting career. Yet many fans still don’t understand just how that nickname came to be. There are at least two parts to the story. The first goes all the way back to Schlereth’s childhood in Anchorage, Alaska. According to The Telegraph, the indigenous Yupik people of southern Alaska have a traditional food known as stinkheads.
As its name suggests, stinkheads consist of fish heads — usually king salmon — buried underground and allowed to ferment until they become a prized if highly stinky delicacy. Because Schlereth hailed from Alaska, it didn’t take long for teammates to christen him “Stink.”
Yet the nickname really came into being thanks to something that happened during a 1990 preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. According to the International Business Times, Schlereth was sitting on the bench when he realized he had to pee—and bad. Instead of holding it, he decided to just let nature take its course, and peed right there on the bench.
From there on out, Schlereth adopted the habit of urinating in his jersey anytime he felt the need during a game. His teammates, disgusted with the practice, began using the “Stink” nickname in earnest. At this point, the nickname is a fully integrated part of Schlereth’s brand. In fact, according to Westword, he’s even got a line of hot sauce that includes the sobriquet: “Mark Schlereth’s Stinkin’ Good Green Chili Sauce.”