Personality influences nicknames

Karl Terry

I think maybe I watch too much football.

The other night watching the Arizona Cardinals listening to the announcers call running back “Beanie” Wells name, I proclaimed that was a great football name. Definitely not the best, I said to myself, thinking “Mean Joe” Greene, but good.

I assumed “Beanie” was his given name but actually it’s Chris. His family called him “Beanie” because he was skinny like a beanpole but the name is still a lot snappier than Chris.

Greene who anchored the 1970s “Steel Curtain” defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers was probably the best defensive player of that era. “Mean Joe” wasn’t so mean off the field, though, and proved it with one of the most famous Coca Cola commercials of all time. A young kid gives the NFL tough guy his Coke and Joe chugs it in one drink then tosses the kid his game jersey.

The second name to pop into my mind was defensive end David “Deacon” Jones of the 1960s and early 1970s Los Angeles Rams. He was mean all the time and with his famous head slaps enroute to tackling a quarterback he was also known as the “Secretary of Defense.” He is reputed to have coined the term quarterback sack.

He stuck the nickname “Deacon” on himself because he wanted people to remember his name. No problem there.

Another good football name from the past is William “Refrigerator” Perry of the 1980s Chicago Bears. He got the name because his bulk was similar to a very large kitchen appliance and apparently it was also his favorite place in the house.

Staying with the size theme there was the Cowboys’ Ed “Too Tall” Jones who was 6 foot 9 inches tall. He was also a defensive lineman (that’s where the best nicknames are) and anchored the Cowboys’ legendary “Doomsday Defense.”

“Broadway Joe” Namath was as well known for his antics off the field as he was for quarterbacking the New York Jets. His full name was Joe William so he also answered to “Joe Willy.”

Namath played college ball for another pretty good football name — Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama.

A few more names that come to my half-watt mind include: Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, “Dandy Don” Meridith, Bronko Nagurski, Walter “Sweetness” Payton, O.J. “Juice” Simpson, Dick “Night Train” Lane, “Bullet” Bob Hayes, Darryl “Moose” Johnston, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, “Primetime” Deion Sanders, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, “Big Ben” Roethlisberger, “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh, “Iron Mike” Ditka, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds and Kenny “The Snake” Stabler.

But without a doubt the greatest football nickname of all time has to be that given to George “Gipper” Gipp a Notre Dame running back who died in 1920 a few days after being named that school’s first All American. Gipp was portrayed by Ronald Reagan in the 1940 movie “Knute Rockne, All American.” The famous line from that movie inspired football players over the years when the dying player told Rockne to have the guys “win just one for the Gipper.”