Touchdown dances are a controversial topic. Like many popular sports traditions, officials aren’t crazy about these festivities but fans love it. While supporters can describe, and often imitate, their favorite player’s touchdown celebration, few can tell you which athletes paved the way for touchdown celebrations in the NFL.
Homer Carroll Jones creates the touchdown celebration
Homer Carroll Jones was a brilliant player. Despite an injury, during his rookie year with the New York Giants, Jones managed to take the field in three games. During those games, he put up impressive stats, catching four passes and 82 yards and generating another 111 yards with six returned kick-offs.
During the next season, Jones shined. The wide receiver caught a pass and carried it a full 89 yards to score a touchdown. He’d watched teammate Frank Gifford pass the football to fans following a game and admired the act. The NFL commissioner had cracked down on this behavior, however, warning players who do so would receive in a $500 fine.
Jones couldn’t afford the fine, so he had to think of something new. After that memorable touchdown, he made another historic move: Jones spiked the ball. Many believe this was the first touchdown celebration.
Bill Johnson adds dance steps to the touchdown celebration
Bill “White Shoes” Johnson is credited for taking what Homer Jones started to a whole new level. Not content with simply spiking the ball, he added an elaborate dance routine to his touchdown celebrations. The fans loved it; the NFL officials were less impressed.
At only 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Johnson didn’t look like much of a football player. When he first took the field, the first things fans noticed were his shoes. They were blindingly white. During his 13 years in the NFL, Johnson played in 143 games and proved he had both staying power and talent. He was on NFL all-decade team twice and was a part of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Everyone wanted Johnson to score touchdowns, partly because they wanted his team to win, but mostly because his end-zone dance was spectacular. He called the dance the “Funky Chicken.” The first time he treated the crowd to the dance was when he scored a touchdown for the Houston Oilers. The coach told him that he could do whatever he wanted as long as he scored.
Current status of touchdown celebrations
The NFL isn’t known for having the most consistent rules when it comes to touchdown celebrations. Some years it seems like they object to just about everything a player does; other years they seem to let everything go.
The current stance is that only people who are in the official team uniform can take part in the celebration, and the celebration can’t go longer than 40 seconds. The one exception to the uniformed players rule is players who are dressed and waiting on the sidelines; they are not required to put on their helmets before joining in on the celebration.