List of NFL nicknames

List of NFL nicknames

The following are nicknames throughout the history of the NFL.



Nicknames for entire teams, or whole offensive or defensive units.

  • Ain'ts[1]— Nickname given to the New Orleans Saints after their 1980 season of 14 consecutive losses. The name persisted somewhat as, although they would later qualify for the playoffs several times since then, they did not win a playoff game until their defeat of the defending Super Bowl champion Rams in the Wild Card round of the 2000-01 playoffs. The franchise subsequently won four additional playoff games, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2007 Divisional Round, the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings in the 2009 Divisional Round and NFC Championship, and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. The recent run of success has changed the meaning of the "Ain'ts" (or "Aints") term from a negative to a positive, connotating the image of an unbreakable barrier to opponents of the Saints (i.e. "You Ain't Beating New Orleans"). The negative use of the term returned following New Orleans' 2010 playoff loss to the 7-9 Seahawks.
  • Air Coryell[2] — Nickname given to the high powered passing offenses of the early 1980s San Diego Chargers, led by quarterback Dan Fouts and coached by Don Coryell.
  • America's Team[3] — Nickname given to the Dallas Cowboys for having a large number of fans outside its immediate local area. (The term itself is likely derived from the title of the team's 1978 highlight film).
  • Bay of Pigs[4] — Nickname given to matchups of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers by ESPN anchor Chris Berman from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, when both teams hovered at the bottom of the NFC Central division. (The term is derived from the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.)
  • Big Blue Wrecking Crew[5] — Name of the New York Giants defensive team during the 1980s and into the early 1990s. This defense is considered one of the greatest of all time, and is perhaps the greatest 3-4 defense in NFL History.[6]
  • Bills West[7][8] — The 2001 San Diego Chargers, so named because of the signing of the Buffalo Bills' former general manager, John Butler, along with several Buffalo Bills players, including quarterback Doug Flutie.
  • Blitz, Inc.[9] — Name of the Philadelphia Eagles defensive team from 1999-2004 seasons.
  • Blitzburgh[10] — Name of the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive unit since the mid-1990s and their tendency to relentlessly attack opposing quarterbacks.
  • Bull Elephant backfield[11] — running backs of the 1950s Rams: Dick Hoerner, Paul "Tank" Younger, and "Deacon" Dan Towler.
  • Bungles[12] — Name referring to the Cincinnati Bengals teams of the 1990s and 2000s, whose string of losing seasons with records 8-8 or worse spanned 14 consecutive years. Name also used for any failing Cincinnati Bengals team thereafter.
  • Cardiac Cardinals (Cards)[13] — the St. Louis Cardinals NFC East championship teams of 1974 (10-4) and '75 (11-3). Noted for their come-from-behind wins under their head coach, Don Coryell. The name was resurrected for the 1998 team that upset Dallas in the wild card game.[14]
  • Cardiac Cats[15] — the Carolina Panthers of the late 1990s and early 2000s, known for close games often decided in the final minutes or the final play, thus giving their fans heart attacks; the term was used particularly during the team's Super Bowl season when they led the league in comeback wins. The Jacksonville Jaguars also earned this nickname in the late '90s after pulling off last minute wins, especially during the 1996 season. Most recently dubbed for the 2009-2010 Cincinnati Bengals for their astounding 8 regular season games that were decided in the final minute of play. Carson Palmer led 7 game tying/winning drives in the final 5:00 of those games (one in overtime against the Cleveland Browns), losing only two of those eventually to the Denver Broncos on the "Immaculate Deflection" and the San Diego Chargers.
  • Cardiac Jags[16] — the Jacksonville Jaguars earned this nickname because of making several comeback wins and/or winning nail-biters.
  • Crunch Bunch - The 1981–83 New York Giants linebacking corps noted for their hard-hitting play and for generating many quarterback sacks, Taylor in particular. Mario Sestito of Troy, New York is credited with coining the name after a NY Giants newsletter at the time called 'Inside Football' held a contest to name this defensive unit, consisting of Harry Carson, Brian Kelley, Lawrence Taylor and Brad Van Pelt.
  • Da Bears[17] — Slang nickname given to the Chicago Bears made popular by the Bill Swerski's Superfans sketches of the early 1990s on Saturday Night Live.
  • The Deadskins - Given to the Washington Redskins squads under Daniel Snyder ownership for the team's poor performances, particularly during the 2000s.
  • Dirty Birds[18] — The 1998 Atlanta Falcons (but is still used to this day to describe the Falcons). The name originates from an endzone dance started by Jamal Anderson that was adopted by all the players upon scoring.
  • The Three-Headed Monster Named after the trio on the 2008 Baltimore Ravens running backs, LeRon McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice.
  • Dome Patrol[19] — The 1980s Saints linebacking corps, rated as #1 by NFL Network. This all star group included Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Pat Swilling, and Vaughan Johnson. The linebacker corps made NFL history as having all four elected to the same Pro Bowl.
  • Dolts - Derisive name given whenever the Indianapolis Colts or San Diego Chargers had a bad team.
  • Doomsday Defense[20] — The 1970s Dallas Cowboys defensive team. Doomsday I, the unit that led the Cowboys to victory in Super Bowl VI, was anchored by future Pro Football Hall of Fame members Herb Adderley, Bob Lilly, and Mel Renfro, while Doomsday II, which spearheaded the drive to the title in Super Bowl XII, featured Hall of Famer Randy White and fellow defensive linemen Harvey Martin and Ed "Too Tall" Jones.
  • Earth, Wind, and Fire[21]2008 New York Giants running back trio of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw
  • Electric Company[22] — The 1970s Buffalo Bills offensive line. They were given that name because they "turned on the 'Juice'" by paving the way for star halfback O.J. Simpson, who was nicknamed "Juice", because a common nickname for orange juice is also O.J.
  • Evil Empire.[23] — Name associating the New England Patriots dynasty of the 2000s. Coach Bill Bellichick was deemed "evil" after the Spygate scandal[24] and the term is a play on Belichick's frequent use of hooded sweatshirts on the sideline, making him resemble the Emperor Palpatine character from the Star Wars motion picture series.
  • Fearsome Foursome[25] — The 1960s Los Angeles Rams defensive line.
  • Fort Knox - name given to the pass pocket created by the 1981 Buffalo Bills offensive line that allowed quarterback Joe Ferguson to throw deep (it allowed him to set a career record in passing yardage that season); the name was a play on the name of Bills head coach Chuck Knox.
  • G Men[26] — Nickname of the New York Giants frequently used by Chris Berman.
  • Gang Green[27] — Nickname of the New York Jets,[28] or the Philadelphia Eagles defensive team from 1987 to 1990, when the team was coached by Buddy Ryan.
  • Greatest Show on Turf[29] — The 1999-2001 St. Louis Rams offensive team. (Note: The first team referred to as "The Greatest Show on Turf" was the 1992 Houston Oilers, the title of their 1993 NFL Films highlight film. The Oilers employed the wide-open run-and-shoot offense.)[30]
  • Gritz Blitz[18] — Nickname for the 1977 Atlanta Falcons defense that allowed the fewest points per game (9.2) in NFL history. The Gritz Blitz defense consisted of defensive tackles Jim Bailey and Mike Lewis, defensive ends Claude Humphrey and Jeff Merrow, cornerbacks Rick Byas, Mike Esposito, and Rolland Lawrence, safeties Ray Brown and Ray Easterling, and linebackers Greg Brezina, Fulton Kuykendall, Ralph Ortega, and Robert Pennywell.[31]
  • Ground Chuck[32] - Nickname for the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks teams coached by Chuck Knox (playing off his first name and his team's conservative, ball-control offense)
  • Homeland Defense[33] - Nickname for the New England Patriots defense during their runs to Super Bowl XXXVIII and XXXIX.
  • Hogs - The Washington Redskins' offensive line, considered one of the largest and strongest in football history, originally consisting of Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Mark May, George Starke, and Jeff Bostic.[34]
  • Jet Blue- New York Giants wide receivers corp in the early 2010s comprising Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham.
  • Jokeland- Derisive name applied to the Oakland Raiders whenever they had a poor performance.
  • Kardiac Kids[35] — The 1980 Cleveland Browns, who had a penchant for having games decided in the final moments.
  • The Killer Bees[36] — The 1982 Miami Dolphins defensive team; 6 of their 11 starters had last names that began with the letter "B", (Bob Baumhower, Bill Barnett, Lyle Blackwood, Kim Bokamper, Glenn Blackwood, Charles Bowser, Doug Betters, and Bob Brudzinski). They allowed only 131 points in the strike-shortened, nine-game regular season.
  • Marty Ball[37] - Term used to describe coach Marty Schottenheimer's football strategy.
  • Million Dollar Backfield was given to two historical backfields. It was first used to describe the backfield of the then-Chicago Cardinals in 1947 after owner Charles Bidwill spent an unprecedented amount of money to lure several of the era's top players to the team.[38] The term was resurrected again in 1954, to describe the backfield of the San Francisco 49ers, which would go on to produce four Hall of Famers.[39]
  • Monsters of the Midway[40] — Originally applied to the Chicago Bears of the early 1940s, but revived for the 1980s Bears and subsequent successful Bears defensive teams. Originally used for the University of Chicago Maroons college football team. "Midway" was the name of the park on campus ("Wall Street Journal" 31 October 2009)
  • New York Sack Exchange[41] — The New York Jets defense of the early 1980s, led by defensive end Mark Gastineau along with Joe Klecko, and interior linemen Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam. Fans began showing up at Shea Stadium with "NY Sack Exchange" signs, then the team itself began to promote that moniker.[42]
  • No-Name Defense[43] — The 1970s Miami Dolphins defensive team, especially that of its undefeated 1972 season, which performed excellently despite a lack of recognizable stars. They earned their nickname the previous year when Dallas coach Tom Landry said in an interview prior to Super Bowl VI that he could not remember the names of the Miami defensive players.
  • Oakland Faiders[44] – Refers to the fact that the Raiders have faded from their glory days. It also referred to the 1995 season in which they got off to an 8-2 start, but didn't win a single game for the rest of the season, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
  • Orange Crush[45] — The 1970s Denver Broncos defensive team, led by defensive end Lyle Alzado and linebacker Randy Gradishar.
  • Over-the-Hill Gang[46] — The George Allen-coached Washington Redskins of the early 1970s, so named because of the large number of veteran players on the team. Many of those players also played for Allen when he coached the Los Angeles Rams from 1966-1970.
  • Patsies[47] — Poorly performing New England Patriots squads, a play on the nickname "The Pats."
  • Pewter Pirates[48] — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after changing team logo and colors in 1997.
  • Purple People Eaters[49] — The 1970s Minnesota Vikings defensive line, specifically the combination of Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, and Gary Larsen. The name is a reference to both the purple uniforms of the Vikings and the 1960s song "One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater"
  • Sack Pack[50] - The defensive line of the Baltimore Colts in the mid- to late-70s. The Sack Pack were defensive tackles Joe Ehrmann (#76) and Mike Barnes (#64) and defensive ends Fred Cook (#72) and John Dutton (#78). In 1975, the Sack Pack established itself with 59 sacks. It had 56 the following year and 47 in 1977 before slowing down due to injuries.
  • San Diego Super Chargers[51] — Nickname given to the San Diego Chargers from its fight song.[52][53] The song is often cited by Chris Berman and Tom Jackson.
  • Steel Curtain[54] — The 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers defensive team considered to be one of the most dominant defenses in the history of the NFL, primarily because in 1978 the league had to make rule changes for offenses to be able to combat the Steel Curtain. These rules included allowing offensive linemen to use their hands to block pass rushers like "Mean" Joe Greene, and restricting defensive backs like Mel Blount from being able to bump receivers more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage (as DB's had been allowed to do before). In 1976 during a 9 game stretch, the Steel Curtain allowed only 28 points, including 5 shut-outs.[55] The Steel Curtain of the '70s produced 4 Hall of Fame players (more than any of the vaunted defensive units of the time): Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Joe Greene, and Mel Blount. LC Greenwood and Donnie Shell have both been Hall of Fame finalists several times.
  • Seagulls,[56] Sea Slugs or Sea Chickens - Name that is often uttered by various articles when referring to the Seahawks in a derogatory way. Also, fans sometimes might call the team this nickname when they do poorly during games.
  • Seasquawks or Squawks - used by Seahawk fans endearingly. It denotes the feeling of pride Seahawks fans have for the team despite their history of mediocrity. It is a play on the name; replacing the hawk in Seahawk with squawk: a grating noise made by a bird in distress, or a harsh abrubt scream[57]
  • SWAT team[58] - Name of the Cincinnati Bengals' secondary of David Fulcher, Solomon Wilcots, Eric Thomas, and Lewis Billups coached by Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau during the 1988 season.
  • Three Amigos[59] - Denver Broncos wide receivers Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson, and Ricky Nattiel
  • The Triplets[60] - Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin & Emmitt Smith, the offensive stars of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys 3-time Super Bowl winning teams
  • Viqueens[61] — Poorly performing Minnesota Vikings squads, a play on the team name.
  • Yucks[62] — (or "Yuccaneers") The Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s when the team commonly posted double-digit losses during the regular season. On November 17, 1996, The "Yuccaneers" term was used during the ESPN pregame show prior to a game at the Chargers. Tampa Bay erased a 0-14 deficit to win 25-17.[63]


Nicknames for individual players, or small groups of individual players.

Nickname Player(s) Description
A-Train[64] Mike Alstott How he was as difficult to tackle as a freight train; "A" is a reference to his surname initial
Ageless Wonder[65][66] Darrell Green His remarkable ability to maintain a high level of play during the latter years of his 20 year career.
AD/All Day[67] or AD or AP Adrian Peterson Given to him by his parents because he would run "all day", his initials
Amish Rifle[68] Ryan Fitzpatrick Given to him by Buffalo Bills fans because of his scraggly beard during the 2010 NFL season.
Anytime[69] Devin Hester His ability to return kicks and punts for touchdowns any time. Inspired from his mentor Deion "PrimeTime" Sanders.
The Assassin[70] Jack Tatum
Bad Moon Andre Rison Given nickname by ESPN's Chris Berman in reference to CCR's song "Bad Moon Rising".
Bambi[71] Lance Alworth For his speed, and his spectacular and graceful moves.
Beast Mode[72] Marshawn Lynch His hard-driving running game.
Big Ben[73] Ben Roethlisberger His imposing size
Big Game[74] Torry Holt
Big Daddy Dan Wilkinson His 6'5", 340 lb frame
Big Snack[75] Casey Hampton Apparent reference to his large size and penchant for eating
Blonde Bomber[citation needed] Terry Bradshaw His blonde hair combined with his tendencies to throw the ball down the field, hence "bomber"
Broadway Joe[citation needed] Joe Namath Reference to the wide avenue that ran through New York - the city where he played QB with the New York Jets
Burner[citation needed] Michael Turner Given both because of his ability to break long runs and because it rhymes with his last name. Got the name in college.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid[citation needed] Larry Csonka & Jim Kiick Miami Dolphins running back duo from 1968–1974; named after the movie about the famous outlaws.
Bus[76] Jerome Bettis Because of his ability to carry tacklers on his back like a "bus"
Captain Checkdown[77] Trent Edwards Name given to quarterback Trent Edwards for his refusal to throw the deep ball, preferring instead to dump off to running backs or tight ends.
CJ2K Chris Johnson CJ for Chris Johnson, 2K for his 2000 yard rushing season.
Comeback Kid[citation needed] multiple Nickname given to any player, particularly quarterbacks such as Roger Staubach, John Elway, Tom Brady and Joe Montana for leading teams in comebacks.
Concrete Charlie[citation needed] Chuck Bednarik Because of missing only 3 games in his 13 season of playing, as well as his offseason employment as a concrete salesman.
Crazy Legs[citation needed] Elroy Hirsch
Crystal Chandelier[citation needed] Chris Chandler Was plagued by concussions and injuries, referencing his presumed fragility
Crunch Bunch[citation needed] Harry Carson, Brian Kelley, Lawrence Taylor and Brad Van Pelt The 1981–83 New York Giants linebacking corps noted for their hard-hitting play and for generating many quarterback sacks, Taylor in particular. Mario Sestito of Troy, New York is credited with coining the name after a NY Giants newsletter at the time called 'Inside Football' held a contest to name this defensive unit.
Curtis "My Favorite" Martin[citation needed] Curtis Martin Pun on the television show My Favorite Martian; bestowed by ESPN's Chris Berman
Deebo[78] James Harrison His similarity in appearance and demeanor to the character in the movie Friday played by Tom Lister, Jr.
Diesel[79] John Riggins Because of his powerback style of play - compared to a truck that ran on diesel.
Don't Cross The[80] Arthur Moats Name bestowed after Moats laid a clean, but particularly devastating hit on Brett Favre, ending Favre's streak of consecutive starts as well as leading to Favre's retirement at the end of the 2010 season. Moats are large trenches surrounding castles that served as a line of defense.
Double Trouble[81] DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart Carolina Panthers running back duo from 2008–present, previously known as Smash and Dash
D.T. or D.D.T.[citation needed] Derrick Thomas His initials. Also went by D.D.T. (bestowed by fans) which stood for "Dangerous Derrick Thomas" and after the toxic synthetic pesticide
Dump Truck[82] Najeh Davenport Allusion to an incident which allegedly occurred when he was in college as well as a take on one-time teammate Jerome Bettis' nickname, "The Bus"
Dwight Hicks and the Hot Licks[citation needed] 1984 San Francisco 49ers defensive secondary led by Dwight Hicks
Edge[83] Edgerrin James Shortening of his first name
Earth, Wind and Fire[84] Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward& Ahmad Bradshaw 2008 NY Giants running backs; Jacobs = Earth, Ward = Wind, Bradshaw = Fire
The Face Cleaver[citation needed] Leonard Weaver
Fast Willie[citation needed] Willie Parker His speed
Fatso[citation needed] Art Donovan
Fitzmagic[85] Ryan Fitzpatrick His ability to turn around a long-struggling Buffalo Bills offensive attack after several years of mediocrity.
Flash 80[citation needed] Jerry Rice His stunning plays combined with his number, 80
The Flyin' Hawaiian [86] Troy Polamalu His style of diving into receivers and diving into pass paths for interception, and for Polamalu's Polynesian ancestry (Polamalu is in fact Samoan, but Hawaiian rhymes better)
Fragile Fred[citation needed] Fred Taylor Perception of being injured constantly
Freak[citation needed] Randy Moss His freakish athletic abilities
Freak Jevon Kearse Combine stats off the charts for someone his size
FredEx Freddie Mitchell Because he "always delivered"
The Freezer[87] B.J. Raji A play off the nickname of William "The Refrigerator" Perry whom the Bears utilized in a similar manner during the 1980s. "Freezer" also alludes to the Packers home stadium, Lambeau Field, which is known for its freezing temperatures in December and February.
Fun Bunch[88] Early 1980s Washington Redskins wide receivers and tight ends This groups choreographed touchdown celebrations led to a league-wide ban of "excessive celebration" in 1984.
Galloping Ghost[89] Harold "Red" Grange Because no one could catch him
Ghost (or "Space Ghost")[citation needed] Dave Casper
Golden Boy[citation needed] Paul Hornung A reference to his blonde hair and his alma mater, Notre Dame, with its gold helmets and the golden dome of the main building on the Notre Dame campus. Notre Dame students and alumni are also referred to as "Golden Domers."
Hacksaw[citation needed] Jack Reynolds Earned his nickname in 1969 by cutting an abandoned 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air in half with a hacksaw after his previously unbeaten University of Tennessee team returned from an embarrassing 38-0 road loss to Ole Miss.
The Hammer[citation needed] Jessie Tuggle Earned his nickname because of impact of hits he put on opposing ball carriers and QBs. Played his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons and was part of the 1998 "Dirty Birds" team.
He Hate Me Rod Smart Self-bestowed nickname Smart used on the back of his jersey during his time in the XFL. The nickname, which became a symbol of the XFL, stuck with Smart after he joined the NFL.
Hefty Lefty', 'J-Load[citation needed] Jared Lorenzen His size and left-handed throwing motion
Hit and Run[citation needed] Thomas Jones and Leon Washington New York Jets running back duo from 2008–2009
The Hotel[citation needed] Flozell Adams His 6-7, 340-pound frame
The House[citation needed] Herman Johnson His 6-7, 386-pound frame
Housh[citation needed] T.J. Houshmandzadeh Play on the first syllable of his name.
Hogs[90] 1980s and early 1990s Washington Redskins offensive line Name first used by offensive line coach Joe Bugel during the team's 1982 training camp prior to winning Super Bowl XVII.
The Human Joystick/ X-Factor[citation needed] Dante Hall Nickname given to him by coach Vermeil because of his big play ability in the return game
Iron Head[citation needed] Craig Heyward His hard-nosed straight-ahead, bruising running style.
Iron Mike[citation needed] Mike Ditka
Joe Cool[citation needed] Joe Montana His ability to remain calm in pressure situations
Juice[citation needed] O. J. Simpson His initials (which also are used to refer to orange juice)
K.G.B.[citation needed] Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila His initials
Kansas Comet[91] Gale Sayers "Kansas Comet" was stuck on him by the Director of Sports Information at the University of Kansas.
The Kitchen Nate Newton Since he was presumably larger than "The Fridge"
L.J.[citation needed] Larry Johnson His initials
L.T.[citation needed] Lawrence Taylor His initials
LT2[citation needed] LaDainian Tomlinson His initials (with the 2 added to distinguish from Lawrence Taylor)
Law Firm BenJarvus Green-Ellis Play on the length of his full name and its resemblance to the name of a law firm
Lights Out[citation needed] Shawne Merriman Because of his reputation of being a hard hitter; has been shortened to "Lights" by teammates in interviews
Long Gone[citation needed] L.G. Dupre An alternate take on his initials, and a reference to his ability to run away from competitors
Machine Gun Kelly[92] Jim Kelly Jim Kelly was perhaps best known for running the Bills' "No-Huddle Offense", which was fast-paced and denied opposing defenses the opportunity to make timely substitutions, establishing the Buffalo Bills as one of the NFL's most successful and dangerous offenses. A reference to mobster George "Machine Gun" Kelly.
Mad Duck[93] Alex Karras Because of his short legs, he appeared to waddle like a duck.
Mad Stork[citation needed] Ted Hendricks
Marion the Barbarian[94] Marion Barber III Because of his physical running style and reputation for repeatedly breaking tackles
Marks Brothers[95] Mark Clayton and Mark Duper Prolific Miami Dolphins wide receiver duo of the 1980s who shared the same first name (also a reference to the Marx Brothers. They were also christened "Mark Twain.")
Matty Ice[citation needed] Matt Ryan A play on the nickname for Natural Ice beer, "Natty Ice" which also refers to his ability to remain cool under pressure
Mean Joe[citation needed] Joe Greene
Meast[citation needed] Sean Taylor Half Man, half beast
Megatron[96] Calvin Johnson A reference to his large frame, comparing him to a Transformers character
Mercury[citation needed] Eugene Morris
Missile[citation needed] Qadry Ismail His speed (particularly as a kick returner), and also a play on his brother Raghib Ismail's nickname, Rocket
The Mossiah[citation needed] Randy Moss The Savior for the Vikings. In his rookie year, Moss led the Vikings towards one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL.
MoJo Maurice Jones-Drew RB for the Jaguars. Nickname was first used when he added his late grandfather's last name (Jones) to his original last name (Drew) out of respect. "Mo" - Maurice, "Jo" - Jones.
Mr. Rodgers Aaron Rodgers QB for the Packers. His last name is a homonym of that of long-time children's television host Mister Rogers.
The Natural Andre Johnson WR for the Houston Texans. Nicknamed due to his incredible natural talent.
Neon Deion[citation needed] Deion Sanders His flashy play and the rhyme with his first name
Nigerian Nightmare[citation needed] Christian Okoye To his homeland as well as to the difficulty he posed to defenses
Night Train[citation needed] Dick Lane Due to his fear of flying, Lane road a night train to away games while the rest of the team flew
Ocho Cinco[citation needed] Chad Ochocinco Self-bestowed pidgin Spanish reference to his uniform number (85); originally named Chad Johnson, legally changed name to "Chad Ochocinco" in 2008. Also self-refers as "Esteban Ochocinco"
Papa Bear[citation needed] George Halas The founding father of the Chicago Bears
Playmaker[97] Michael Irvin For his ability to defeat tight coverage, even double coverage, and make big plays.; possibly self-bestowed
Pocket Hercules Maurice Jones-Drew For his durability as a featured back, his strength to break tackles and to make crucial pancake blocks (most notably on Shawn Merriman) despite his diminutive size.
Porcelain Pennington[citation needed] Chad Pennington Derogatory reference to his repeated season-ending injuries
Pork Chop[citation needed] Floyd Womack
Posse[98] Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders Trio of wide receivers on the Washington Redskins of the late 1980s through the early 1990s:
Prime Time[99] Deion Sanders His ability to step up at critical moments and make big plays; possibly self-bestowed
Pudge[citation needed] William Heffelfinger
Purple Jesus[citation needed] Adrian Peterson His Vikings uniform color; see also Chris Johnson's nickname, "Light Blue Jesus"
Purple People Eaters[citation needed] Mid-1970s Minnesota Vikings defensive line of Alan Page, Carl Eller , Gary Larsen and Jim Marshall Reference to the purple uniforms of the Vikings and a takeoff of the 1960s song "One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater"
Refrigerator or Fridge[100] William Perry His immense size in comparison to other defensive linemen
Revis Island[101] Darrelle Revis His ability to cover wide receivers was compared to being stranded on an island
Rocket[citation needed] Raghib Ismail His speed; given to him while he was at Notre Dame
Roger the Dodger[citation needed] Roger Staubach His ability to avoid the pass rush; given to him while at Navy
Run DMC[citation needed] Darren McFadden His speed; given to him in beginning of 2011 season, also a play on his initials.
The Samoan Head Hunter Troy Polamalu His ability to confuse the opposing offense and make bone crushing tackles.
Scramblin' Fran[citation needed] Fran Tarkenton His ability to avoid defenders in the backfield and penchant for running with the ball if the pass play broke down
Silverback[75] James Harrison His strength, which is likened to that of a silverback gorilla
Sixty Minute Man[102] Chuck Bednarik Playing on both offense and defense (and thus playing all sixty minutes of the game); is sometimes applied generally to any player that does this
Slingin' Sammy[citation needed] Sammy Baugh His affinity for passing the ball, particularly deep downfield
Slot Machine[citation needed] Wes Welker His effectiveness lining up between the split end/flanker and the linemen (i.e. "the slot")
Smash and Dash[103] Chris Johnson & LenDale White Running back duo of the Titans starting in 2008; White being Smash for his 'power running back' skills and Johnson being Dash because of his astonishing breakaway speed
Smash, Dash, and Tash[citation needed] Marion Barber III, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice Dallas Cowboys' 3 man running attack starting in 2008; nod to the Titans' "Smash and Dash"; Barber = Smash (power back), Jones = Dash (speed back), Choice = Tash (contraction of first name)
Snake[citation needed] Knowlton Ames His speed and elusiveness
Snake[citation needed] Ken Stabler Earned his nickname from his coach following a long, winding touchdown run
Snake[citation needed] Jake Plummer His ability of "snaking" around out of pressure in the pocket; also rhymes with first name
Smurfs[104] Gary Clark, Alvin Garrett, and Charlie Brown 1980s Redskins' receiving corps; because of their diminutive size (Garrett was 5'7”, Clark was 5'9”, and Brown the tallest at 5'10”), comparing them to the tiny blue comic and cartoon characters
Sweetness[105] Walter Payton
TD[citation needed] Terrell Davis His initials, also referring to the abbreviation for "touchdown"; Davis holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in one Super Bowl game with three
T.O.[citation needed] Terrell Owens His initials
Tom Terrific[106] Tom Brady Given after Brady's terrific play through much of the 2000s, including 3 Super Bowls, 2 League MVPs, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, and the NFL regular season record for passing touchdowns (50) in 2007.
The Tasmanian Devil Troy Polamalu He plays with a style that borders on reckless, and, like the cartoon character, he is something of whirling dervish.
Three Headed Monster[107] Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook a trio of star running backs that all played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003.
The Throwin' Samoan Jack Thompson A quarterback whose birthplace was American Samoa
Thunder & Lightning Keenan McCardell & Jimmy Smith 1996-2001 Jaguars wide receiver tandem; McCardell = Thunder, Smith = Lightning
Thunder and Lightning[citation needed] Ron Dayne & Tiki Barber 2000 Giants running back tandem; Dayne = Thunder, Barber = Lightning
Thunder and Lightning[citation needed] Ricky Watters & Charlie Garner 1995–1997 Eagles running back tandem; Watters = Thunder, Garner = Lightning
Tommy Gun aka Touchdown Tommy[citation needed] Tommy Maddox Nickname given for Maddox's passing ability, making the Steelers more of a downfield team.
Touchdown Tommy[citation needed] Tommy Vardell He was given the nickname in college by Stanford head coach Dennis Green after scoring four touchdowns against Notre Dame.
The Tyler Rose[citation needed] Earl Campbell Campbell is from Tyler, Texas
Uptown[citation needed] Gene Upshaw A play on his name, but also his role as a guard when run-blocking.
Wash and Wear[citation needed] Thomas Jones & Leon Washington 2008–2009 Jets duo of running backs
Weapon X/Wolverine[citation needed] Brian Dawkins Used to describe his hard hitting, game changing play style. As well as make flying tackles.
Well Dressed Amani Toomer Amani Toomer Given by Chris Berman, play on Armani suits.
White Shoes[citation needed] Billy Johnson His choice of footwear at a time when most players wore black cleats
The Wheaton Iceman[108] Harold "Red" Grange A part-time job he once held delivering ice in his hometown of Wheaton, Illinois
Wildman[citation needed] Ray Nitschke
Windy City Flyer and Miami Missile[109] Devin Hester Hester's speed and a nickname for the city of Chicago, in which he plays; bestowed by WBBM 780 radio-announcer Jeff Joniak



  • 49ers Faithful[121] — Nickname given to the fans of the San Francisco 49ers.
  • 4th Phase - Fans of the Chicago Bears. Infers the fans are the 4th phase of the game, after Offense, Defense and Special Teams.
  • Bills Backers[122]Buffalo Bills fans. Because of the massive population displacement of Western New Yorkers, "Bills Backers Bars" can be found in almost every major city throughout the United States.
  • Bills Elvis[123] - Entertainer and Elvis impersonator John R. Lang, who appears with a large white guitar that he uses as a billboard. He is one of the Bills' most recognizable individual fans.
  • Cheeseheads[124] — A name given to people of Wisconsin (mainly Packer fans) by Chicago Bears fans after the Bears won the Super Bowl. The name mocks Wisconsin's love of cheese. The name eventually gained acceptance. "Cheeseheads" can refer to the "Packer Nation", being synonymous to Green Bay's massive diaspora of fans nationwide.
  • Chief Zee[125] - Fan at nearly all Washington Redskins games since 1978 and considered the unofficial mascot of the team. He wears an Indian headdress, large rimmed glasses, with a red jacket and carries a tomahawk.
  • Fireman Ed[126] — Fan at NY Jets home games who wears a green fireman helmet with a Jets logo on the front. Known for leading the "J-E-T-S" chants.
  • Franco's Italian Army[127][128] — Fans of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris.
  • Gerela's Gorillas[128] — Fans of Pittsburgh Steelers placekicker Roy Gerela.
  • Giants Land - A term that refers to the fan base of the New York Giants. While not strictly referring to the just fans, Giants Land is commonly used to refer to the New York Giants organization as a whole, the fans, coaches, owners and players. For example, if the Giants suffer a bad lose one could say, "All is not well in Giants Land,".[129]
  • Hogettes[130] — A group of about twelve Washington Redskins fans who dress in drag and wear pig-noses. The name is a takeoff of the Redskins' "Hogs" offensive line.
  • Niner Empire - Fans of the San Francisco 49ers. Due to the 49ers Super Bowl dynasty of the 1980s and part way into the 1990s.
  • Packer Backer - Fan of the Green Bay Packers. Sometimes used derisively by Bears fans.
  • Pinto Ron[131] - Ken Johnson, a well-known fan of the Buffalo Bills known for appearing at all the Bills' home and away games, his bushy beard, his tailgating on a 1980 Ford Pinto (hence his name), and the infamous practice of serving shots of liquor out of a bowling ball, a practice that the league has since banned.
  • Raider Nation[132]Oakland Raiders fans.
  • Steeler Nation[133]Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
  • SuperSkin[134] — Die-hard fan of the Washington Redskins, who attends each home game dressed in a burgundy and gold superhero costume and motivates other fans to cheer loudly.
  • The Sea of Red — Nickname given to the loudest NFL fans of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
  • The 12th Man[135] — Nickname given to the fans of the Seattle Seahawks because of the impact of their loud cheering on the opposing team's offensive linemen, leading to false start penalties. In an official capacity, this nickname is licensed to the Seahawks by its original owner Texas A&M University at College Station.[136]
  • Who Dat Nation[137] - New Orleans Saints fans.

Rules named after NFL figures

Throughout the league's history, a number of rules have been enacted largely because of exploits on the field by a single coach, owner, player, or referee. The following is a partial list of such rule changes:

  • Bert Emanuel rule[138] — the ball can touch the ground during a completed pass as long as the receiver maintains control of the ball. Enacted due to a play in the 1999 NFC championship game, where Emanuel, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had a catch ruled incomplete since the ball touched the ground.
  • Bill Belichick rule[139] — two defensive players, one primary and one backup, will have a radio device in their helmets allowing the head coach to communicate with them through the radio headset, identical to the radio device inside the helmet of the quarterback. This proposal was defeated in previous years, but was finally enacted in 2008 as a result of Spygate. This rule is the only rule named after a head coach.
  • Jerome Bettis rule[140] — All calls for coin flips will occur before the referee tosses the coin in the air, and at least two officials will be present during the coin toss. This is in response to a frequently cited "worst call in history."[141] On a Thanksgiving Day game with the Detroit Lions on November 26, 1998, Bettis was sent out as the Steelers representative for the overtime coin toss. Bettis appeared to call "tails" while the coin was in the air but referee Phil Luckett declared that Bettis called "heads" and awarded possession to Detroit, who would go on to win the game before Pittsburgh had the chance to have possession.
  • Bronko Nagurski rule[142] — forward passing made legal from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Enacted in response to a controversial call in the 1932 NFL Playoff Game, in which Nagurski completed a 2-yard pass to Red Grange for the Chicago Bears' winning touchdown. The rule at the time mandated that a forward pass had to be thrown from at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Nagurski appeared to have not dropped back five yards before passing to Grange, but the touchdown stood.
  • Deacon Jones rule[142] — no head-slapping. Enacted in 1977 in response to the defensive end's frequently used technique against opponents.
  • Deion Sanders rule[143] — Player salary rule which correlates a contract's signing bonus with its yearly salary. Enacted after Sanders signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 1995 for a minimum salary and a $13 million signing bonus. (There is also a college football rule with this nickname.)
  • Emmitt Smith rule[142] — A player cannot remove his helmet while on the field of play, except in the case of obvious medical difficulty. A violation is treated as unsportsmanlike conduct. Enacted in 1997. The Dallas Cowboys running back was the most high-profile player who celebrated in this manner immediately after scoring a touchdown.
  • Fran Tarkenton rule[142] — a line judge was added as the sixth official to ensure that a back was indeed behind the line of scrimmage before throwing a forward pass. Enacted in 1965 in response to Tarkenton, who frequently scrambled around in the backfield from one side to the other.
  • Greg Pruitt rule[145] — tear-away jerseys became illegal starting in 1979. Pruitt purposely wore flimsy jerseys that ripped apart in the hands of would-be tacklers. Such a jersey was most infamously seen in a game between the Rams and Oilers where Earl Campbell's jersey ripped apart after several missed tackles.
  • Hines Ward rule[146] -- The blocking rule makes illegal a blindside block if it comes from the blocker's helmet, forearm or shoulder and lands to the head or neck area of the defender. Enacted in 2009 after the Pittsburgh Steelers receiver broke Keith Rivers's jaw while making such a block during the previous season.
  • Ken Stabler rule[142] — on fourth down at any time in the game or any down in the final two minutes of a half, if a player fumbles forward, only the fumbling player can recover and/or advance the ball. If that player's teammate recovers the ball, it is placed back at the spot of the fumble. A defensive player can recover and advance at any time of play. Enacted in 1979 in response to the 1978 "Holy Roller" play that resulted in a last-minute winning touchdown, in which Oakland Raiders quarterback Stabler fumbled the ball forward, and tight end Dave Casper eventually performed a soccer-like dribble before falling on it in the end zone.
  • Lester Hayes rule[142] — no Stickum allowed. Enacted in 1981 in response to the Oakland Raiders defensive back, who used the sticky substance to improve his grip.
  • Lou Groza rule[142] — no artificial medium to assist in the execution of a kick. Enacted in 1956 in response to Groza, who used tape and later a special tee with a long tail to help him guide his foot to the center spot of the football.
  • Mel Blount rule[147] -- Officially known as illegal use of hands, defensive backs can only make contact with receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Enacted in its current form in 1978. While playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive back Blount frequently used physical play against receivers he was covering.
  • Mel Renfro rule[142] -- allows a second player on the offense to catch a tipped ball, without a defender subsequently touching it. Enacted in 1978. One of the first high-profile "victims" of the old rule was Dallas Cowboys defensive back Renfro in Super Bowl V; his tip of a pass allowed the Baltimore Colts' John Mackey to legally catch the ball and run in for a 75-yard touchdown.
  • Neil Smith rule[148][149] -- prevents a defensive lineman from flinching to induce a false start penalty on the offense. Enacted in 1998. Smith had frequently used that technique while playing for both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.
  • Phil Dawson rule[150] -- certain field goals can be reviewed by instant replay, including kicks that bounce off the uprights. Under the previous system, no field goals could be replayed. Enacted in 2008 in response to an unusual field goal by the Cleveland Browns kicker: the ball first bounced off the left upright, then back onto the rear curved post (stanchion), then back out over the crossbar and into the end zone, in front of the goalpost. It was initially ruled by the officials as "no good", but was reversed "upon discussion".
  • Red Grange rule[151] -- prohibits college football players from signing with NFL teams until after their college class had graduated. The rule was enacted after Red Grange and Ernie Nevers joined the Chicago Bears and Duluth Eskimos immediately after their final college football games in 1925.
  • Ricky (Williams) rule[152] -- rule declared that hair could not be used to block part of the uniform from a tackler and, therefore, an opposing player could be tackled by his hair. Enacted in 2003. Rule was so-named after running back Williams' long dread-locks.
  • Shawne Merriman rule[155] -- Bans any player from playing in the Pro Bowl if he tests positive for using a performance-enhancing drug during that season. Enacted in 2007 after the San Diego Chargers linebacker played at the 2007 Pro Bowl after testing positive and serving a four-game suspension during the preceding season.
  • Steelers rule[156] — The details have yet to be finalized, but the NFL has announced that in coming seasons, not just players, but teams could face fines if a series of illegal hits is seen from any particular organization. The rule has been met with significant criticisms, understandably from the Steelers organization,[157] and from others[158] that fear the new rules will dampen the spirit of the game and make professional football "too soft."
  • Tom Dempsey rule[159][160] -- any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe. Enacted in 1977. Dempsey, who was born without toes on his right foot and no right arm, wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface, generating controversy about whether such a shoe gave him an unfair advantage kicking field goals.
  • Tom Brady rule[162] -- Prohibits a defender on the ground from lunging or diving at a quarterback's legs unless that defender has been blocked or fouled into the signal-caller. Enacted in 2009 in response to a play by Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, who on the ground sacked Brady and injured the Patriots quarterback's MCL and ACL, sidelining him for the rest of the 2008 season.


  • Baltimore Triangle - The mid-field logo at M&T Bank Stadium of the Baltimore Ravens. It is named so because the mid-field shield logo of the Ravens is shaped like a triangle and their defense "makes offenses disappear" when opposing teams take snaps from that area.
  • The Duke - A nickname for the late Wellington Mara, long time owner of the New York Giants. The nickname stems from the Duke of Wellington, an actual English hereditary title. This nickname was extended to the official game ball used by the NFL "The Duke" named in honor of Mr. Mara. To this day one can notice the moniker "THE DUKE." branded into every official NFL football just to the left of the NFL Shield.
  • Ickey Shuffle[163] — Dance done by Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods whenever he scored a touchdown. Woods was forced to move the dance to the sidelines behind the Bengals' bench after officials starting penalizing him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • K-Gun[164] — Nickname referring to the no-huddle offense used by the Buffalo Bills with quarterback Jim Kelly during the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s.
  • Lambeau Leap[165] — During home games at Lambeau Field, some players from the Green Bay Packers would leap into the stands after scoring a touchdown. Originally created by LeRoy Butler, it was made popular by Robert Brooks. Players in other stadiums imitate the leap.
  • Lights out - Dance by Bills Linebacker Shawne Merriman after he gets a sack
  • Miami Pound Machine - Nickname for the 1980s Dolphins defense, named in honor of Gloria Estefan's group "Miami Sound Machine." Gloria and her manager-husband Emilio Estefan would become minority owners of the 'Phins before the 2009 season.
  • Miami Vise - Also a Dolphins defense nickname, after the TV show "Miami Vice."
  • Mile High Salute[166] — Mid-to-late 1990s Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis would salute his soldier father after scoring touchdowns. Many people misinterpret the salute as a “salute” to the scoring player or the fans or teammates in general. The salute was very specific, the running back (Terrell Davis) was saluting his blocking back (usually Howard Griffith) for making the touchdown possible.
  • Sack Dance[167] - New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau was nationally famous for doing his signature "Sack Dance" after sacking an opposing quarterback. However, he had to stop when the NFL declared it "unsportsman like taunting" in March 1984 and began fining players for it. The ban on the Sack Dance stemmed from a 1983 game against the Los Angeles Rams, when Gastineau and Rams Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater got into a fight following a Gastineau sack of Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo.
  • Terrible Towel[168] — a banner conceived by the late Myron Cope (long time Steeler commentator) used by fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers to cheer for their team, consisting of a yellow towel with the words "Terrible Towel" in black, to be waved in the air. The Carolina Panthers also began a spin-off known as the "Growl Towel".[169] Also spoofed by the Packers following their third Super Bowl victory as the "Title Towel". The "Terrible Towel" has jumped to at least one other sport, as the Homer Hanky used by Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins.

See also

Sports Nicknames: 20,000 Professionals Worldwide by Terry W. Pruyne


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