20 Best Nicknames In NFL History

Nicknames are a dying art in the NFL these days it seems, at least compared to a couple of decades ago where it seemed everyone had one. To be sure, there are some current, and recent, NFL players with great nicknames. Some of the most recognizable names in the sport come with fitting monikers that enhance the aura and mystique surrounding a player. Some nicknames come from the media, some come from the fans and some even originate with the player himself. No matter their origin there are some nicknames that just seem to fit like a glove on certain players. These are the 20 best nicknames in NFL history.

20. Marshawn Lynch “Beast Mode”
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This is a self-appointed nickname but it stuck with NFL fans. Lynch, who is a bit of a character off the field and a bruising running back on it with deceptive speed, would amaze fans with his runs and ability to break tackles. Those kinds of plays are simply referred to as Lynch going “Beast Mode.” Even though he gave himself the nickname in an interview it is a fitting moniker and worthy of being on this list.

19. “Bullet” Bob Hayes
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Hayes was the fastest man alive at one point. He set the world record for the 100 meters at the 1964 Summer Olympics. He also currently holds the record for the 70-yard sprint with a time of 6.90 seconds and remains the only person to have a sub-seven second time. He also held records in the 60, 100 and 220-yard sprints and is the only person to ever win a Super Bowl and a Gold Medal. The Hall of Fame receiver was said to be faster than a bullet.

18. Red Grange “The Galloping Ghost”
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Red is actually a nickname as well. His real name is Harold. He also was known as “The Iceman” or “The Wheaton Iceman” because he worked hauling ice prior to playing football which he credited for his strength. Grange credited Warren Brown for giving him the nickname “The Galloping Ghost” because of his ability to run the football and make defenders miss. He helped put the NFL on the map in the 1920s and starred in a 12-part series entitled “The Galloping Ghost” in 1931 which further cemented his legacy.

17. Ryan Fitzpatrick “The Amish Rifle”
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Fitzpatrick got the nickname in 2010 because he wore a large beard before it was really common like it is today. The beard made him look Amish and he had, at the time, a pretty good arm. Fitzpatrick might not have put up prodigious stats but his nickname is one of the best in football. The contradiction of Amish and rifle, the Amish are pacifists, is sort of fitting for Fitzpatrick given his career’s ups and downs.

16. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson
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Johnson earned the nickname of “Megatron” because of his large hands. His hands resembled those of the Deceptacon leader from the Transformer franchise. Those hands also made him the best wide receiver in the NFL for several years. He played like a gigantic robot among mere mortals.

15. Craig “Ironhead” Heyward
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Whether he got the nickname in high school for his large head, it was 8 ¾, or if it was given to him for his running style where he would lower his head and plow into defenders, it was a fitting moniker. Heyward was a bruising running back who could muscle his way through lines and gain those all-important yards in short yardage situations. Plus, “Ironhead” is kind of a metal nickname and flowed so well with his name it has to be on this list.

14. “Broadway” Joe Namath
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Namath was the first celebrity quarterback on the national stage in the nation’s largest market. He was part playboy, part celebrity, part quarterback. He was much bigger than the New York Jets and much bigger than football, an enigma in shoulder pads. He was good on the field and marketable off of it. His Super Bowl guarantee only added to his status on and off the field.

13. Lance “Bambi” Alworth
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Most would think that a nickname like “Bambi” in the hyper-masculine world of football would be an insult but Alworth’s nickname is far from it. He got the nickname because he ran like a deer and because of his big brown eyes. He was fast and agile on the field and could glide like a deer.

12. Mike “The Samurai” Singletary
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Singletary had a warrior instinct roaming the middle of the field on one of the best defenses in football. He had a laser-like focus on the field and used that to punish offenses, much like the samurai on the battlefield.

11. Jack Tatum “The Assassin”
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Tatum was known for his hard hits. His hits were sometimes controversial, such as his hit on New England Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game that left Stingley paralyzed. Some say the hit was legal, others say it wasn’t. There is no denying, however, that Tatum would almost take an opposing receiver’s invasion of his territory personally and make him pay for every yard.

10. David “Deacon” Jones
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Jones gave himself the nickname “Deacon” after seeing how many David Jones’ there were in the phone book. At least that’s what he claimed in an interview. He chose it because it didn’t sound violent and since football is a violent game, and Jones was known for his violent head slap on offensive linemen and then punishing quarterbacks, he thought it softened his image a bit. It worked. Most people don’t even know his name is David.

9. Christian Okoye “The Nigerian Nightmare”
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Okoye was a rarity, a player from Nigeria which is not exactly a hotbed for NFL talent. However, Okoye was an outstanding running back for the Kansas City Chiefs and bowled over defenses with his unique blend of size and speed. He was a nightmare for opposing defenses but injuries cut his career short.

8. Jerome Bettis “The Bus”
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Bettis was a big, bruising back who punished defenses. He got the nickname while at Notre Dame when the school paper referred to him as “Bus.” He really was a bus, plowing through defenses to become the sixth on the all-time rushing list.

7. Reggie White “Minister of Defense”
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White had shown a very public interest in religion dating back to college, something he would pursue after retiring from football with fervor. He was also the best defensive end in football. Smash the two together and you have the perfect nickname for him, “The Minister of Defense.”

6. Walter Payton “Sweetness”
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The origin of his nickname is not entirely known. Everyone seems to have their own opinion on it. Regardless of its origin, “Sweetness” is a perfect name for Payton who was one of the best running backs to ever play the game. He was also a nice guy off the field so whether the nickname was in reference to his play on the field or his demeanor off of it, the nickname is perfect.

5. Deion “Prime Time” Sanders
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The Hall of Fame corner made a name for himself with his flashy ways in the early 1990s. “Prime Time” was a fitting name because people really did tune in to watch the two-sport star play both football and baseball. He still has that flair as a broadcaster.

4. William “The Refrigerator” Perry
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He earned the nickname in college when a teammate could barely fit in the same elevator as him and compared him to the household appliance. Perry would become a star on the 1985 Chicago Bears and even scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Everyone loves the “Fridge.”

3. Ed “Too Tall” Jones
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Jones is 6’9” which is big even for today’s standards. However, when Jones broke into the NFL in 1974 he was freakishly tall for the sport. His nickname would appear on officially licensed football cards for years.

2. Dick “Night Train” Lane
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Lane, who was a beast of a defensive backand could hit with the best of them actually got his nickname from his fear of flying. Lane would take the train out to games. It didn’t hurt his reputation that he hit like a freight train either.

1. Charles “Mean Joe” Greene
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Not many people know his name isn’t Joe. Mean Charles just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. He had the Joe nickname before the Mean was added. The Mean part of his moniker was actually a mix-up on the part of the Pittsburgh Steelers after Greene was drafted. It had to do with the name of his college, the University of North Texas which is known as the Mean Green. So there you have the story behind the most recognizable nickname in football.