15 Of The Greatest NFL Nicknames Of All Time
With the first official NFL game of the year tonight, (never mind that it’s an exhibition in which it’ll mostly be roster bubble candidates vying to impress coaches versus any of the team’s actual stars) those of us who are football fans are fiending for the real season to start. Football, as long as you don’t think about long-term head trauma, is truly one of the most entertaining games available on American television. In what other sport is there truly a solid chance of a guy getting hit so hard that he does a full frontflip almost every game?
In contrast to the brutality and physicality of the game, however, there are certain things about football that are truly goofy and delightful. A team hoisting a tiny kicker aloft in celebration. Fully choreographed touchdown celebrations that look pulled out of a cheer routine. One other thing as well: the nicknames. Oh, the glorious nicknames. Of course, most professional sports have plenty of nom de plumes, but only in football do you get incredibly dumb monikers attached to some of the most physically terrifying men to walk the earth’s crust. Here are 15 of the absolute best.
Simple, unpolished, perfect. The nickname “Refrigerator” is like an uncut diamond, beautiful in its simplicity. People took one look at defensive tackle William Perry and went, “that is a man that is the size of a residential fridge.” At six foot two and 335 pounds, they weren’t far off. Out of curiosity, I looked up the actual specs on a genuine refrigerator, and a 27.4 cubic foot Samsung home refrigerator is 6 feet tall and weighs 276 pounds. Meaning that maybe it was the refrigerator that should have been nicknamed a William Perry.
Next up is another monster of a man that, 16 weeks of the year, answered the question “what would it feel like to get hit by a large piece of machinery repeatedly for 2 to 3 hours?” That man was running back Jerome Bettis, known simply as “The Bus.” Bettis was only 5 foot 11, which meant that his 255 pounds had an even lower center of gravity. Every man who ever attempted to tackle him deserves a Presidential Medal of Courage.
Lester the Molester
A nickname that has only grown LESS fun as the years have gone on, and one that certainly wouldn’t fly in today’s NFL outside of maybe Deshaun Watson, cornerback Lester Hayes was the owner of this questionable moniker. Luckily, it was based on on-field actions, as he was notoriously sticky on opposing wide receivers, known for his physical bump-and-run coverage. Also he was known for LITERALLY being sticky, as he is responsible for the league banning Stickum, a sticky substance that was usually used to help ungloved players haul in footballs which Lester eventually started covering his whole-ass body in.
He may not have played football in a long time, but the nickname Booger McFarland still causes double-takes to this day, as he’s still very active in media as an analyst and commentator. He even sometimes drives a cart around the field which, honest to god, on television, they refer to as “The Boogermobile.” He received the nickname, as you could guess, as a child and, like the substance described, it stuck.
When your nickname could also double as the name of a navy battleship or a Final Fantasy boss, that’s a good sign that it’s pretty bad-ass. This doubly metal nom de plume belongs to fullback Craig Heyward. He reportedly received the nickname for his habit when young of lowering his head into oncoming defenders, which makes my ribcage hurt just writing it. Not to mention the dude played at 5’11” and THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY POUNDS. My whole skeleton would come out.
Life is hard as a short guy. And when you’re playing in the NFL, 5’9” is short. Even if you get absolutely bananas ripped and become a star running back, you still end up with a nickname like “Muscle Hamster.” Doug Martin found this out the hard way, getting stuck with the cuddly nickname by a teammate, which he reportedly hated. Unfortunately for him, hating a nickname is the number one way to make it stick.
Of course one of the greatest players to ever set foot on an NFL field would receive a suitably sick nickname. Walter Payton, running back for the Chicago Bears, is pretty much unanimously considered one of the greatest NFL players ever, both on and off the field. Unfortunately, Sweetness would pass away tragically young at 46, but his legacy includes both an NCAA and NFL award named after him, and now, a listicle on Cracked dot com. Three things that are all equally prestigious.
If a guy walks into a bar and somebody yells out, “Ay! Concrete Charlie!” you know you’re about to meet one of the coolest motherf**kers you’ve ever seen. A guy named Concrete Charlie is the kind of guy the Fonz would ask for an autograph. It’s a nickname that’s hard to live up to, but Chuck Bednarik managed it. We are talking about a dude that flew 30 combat missions in Germany as a waist gunner, came back to America, played football as both an offensive lineman AND a linebacker in the same goddamn games, and has since been named one of the hardest hitters in NFL history. He has since been known for criticizing modern NFL players for being soft because they only play offense OR defense, and claimed they “couldn’t tackle my wife.”
When you start out your life nicknamed Peanut for your big ol’ head, most people would assume you’re in for a life of wedgies. Not Charles Tillman. He took his nom de legume and made it not only known as one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time, but attached it perpetually to a technique he perfected known as the “Peanut Punch,” notorious for its ability to cause a fumble. Now retired, he has since, uh, become an FBI agent. God bless you, Agent Peanut.
You might associate football with violence, and the idea of a mad stork with violence, but of two very different ilks. Somehow, the two came together in the nickname of lineback Ted Hendricks. Just goes to show, you can become a full on professional athlete and still get absolutely roasted for life because you’ve got kinda thin legs. Mind you, this isn’t some weirdo practice squad guy. My man Mad Stork is in the Hall of Fame.
The idea of Bambi on the football field suggests a result that’s basically a red smear of fur at the 50 yard line, but once again, we’re talking about a football player. A very good football player. Another Hall of Fame football player. Lance Alworth played wide receiver, which is probably the only position in which it is even remotely complimentary to be compared to a deer, and that’s precisely what happened. A teammate gave him the nickname for his “big brown eyes” and the way he ran, and it stuck. We can only hope someone else on his team picked up “Thumper.”
Night Train Lane
Saying the name “Night Train Lane” tastes like a sip of cognac. It’s borderline poetry. The man who owned the name, Richard a.k.a. Dick Lane, lives up to expectations. Night Train was a Hall of Fame NFL cornerback who still holds the title of 4th most interceptions in NFL history. The nickname apparently came from his love of the song Night Train by Jimmy Forrest, which tells me that I need to pick a new favorite song based on how cool the title is ASAP.
Too Tall Jones
Too Tall Jones is a nickname that seems more at home in a mafia backroom than the NFL field, but it’s undeniably cool wherever the owner resides. He got the nickname from, and you’re absolutely not going to believe this, being way too tall. Jones entered the NFL as a defensive lineman at 6 foot 9 inches. If you’re not familiar with football positions, playing defensive line puts him right in front of the quarterback. Meaning quarterbacks had to try to throw the ball past a six foot nine guy every play. Unsurprisingly, it turned out Too Tall Jones was actually a really effective height.
Even the goofier names on this list usually aren’t actually based in any ill will. That is not the case with Mark “Stink” Schlereth. A Super Bowl winning offensive lineman, Mark Schlereth absolutely didn’t stink when it came to his ability. He did, however, when it came to his pants. This nickname is not nearly as figurative as you might think–Schlereth received it because he was well known for straight up pissing his pants during games. That’s real football right there.