Whereas my Second Team Hall of Namers were football players whose names are merely amusing, these First Team designees are ones whose names seem to independently declare, “this guy is an effin’ football player, my friend!”
I must admit, this one was tough because there are so, so many great candidates. Especially from the mid-century era: randomly looking at the roster of the 1947 Chicago Cardinals reveals such minor gems as Plato Andros, Babe Dimancheff, Pop Ivy, Buster Ramsey, and Walt Szot. With the purely arbitrary nature of this little exercise in mind, here are my favorite favorites.
NOTE: an asterisk after a player’s name denotes a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
FIRST TEAM: NOW THAT’S A FOOTBALL PLAYER NAME
pronounced “bee-EN-uh-mee”RB • San Diego Chargers (1991-94), Cincinnati Bengals (1995-98), Philadelphia Eagles (1999)
We can all be grateful that Bieniemy chose not to attempt a post-football hip-hop career under the name B-Enemy. I can only imagine the various mockeries he must have heard on the playgrounds of his childhood: “Eric B. Enema,” “Eric B. Anthony” (from women’s suffrage history enthusiasts), etc. ESPN’s Chris Berman probably rendered any other nicknames moot when he famously dubbed him "Eric ‘Sleeping With’ Bieniemy."
TE • Seattle Seahawks (1994-98), Minnesota Vikings (1999)
Who wants to get blocked by a 6’6”, 260 pound tight end named Carlester Crumpler? Not I. His younger brother Alge Crumpler was also an NFL tight end, and a pretty darn good one. It’s fair to say that Alge exceeded Carlester in all but name.
pronounced “ZAWN-kuh”FB • Miami Dolphins (1968-74, 1979), New York Giants (1975-78)
It seems to me that if you’re onomatopoeically named after a concussion, you kind of have to be a football player. Unless perhaps you have the hand speed to be a boxer… nah, football player still feels more appropriate. Especially if you ever watched Larry Csonka run over people.
OT, New York Jets (2006- )
I picture him training by pulling a rickshaw filled with bricks. Or a brick rickshaw. Ferguson and whichever athletic label is currently producing the Jets’ uniforms should make that image into a poster. Huge dude charging right at you pulling a brick-filled rickshaw, and underneath that the logo and the large font, all-caps declaration D’BRICKASHAW. You’re welcome, Mr. Ferguson.
pronounced “GROW-zuh”OT/K • Cleveland Browns, (1946-67)
There is a general shortage of guys named Lou in the NFL these days. Not to mention offensive linemen who do double duty as kickers, or have nicknames like “The Toe.”
pronounced “nuh-GURR-skee”FB/OT/LB • Chicago Bears (1930-37, 1943)
Born Bronislaw Nagurski in 1908, he dominated during the 30′s with his combination of speed, strength and relative hugeness for that time: 6’2″ and 226 lbs. He retired from football before the 1938 season to focus on the more lucrative endeavor of professional wrestling, but was lured back in 1943 by legendary coach George Halas to help fill the Bears’ depleted wartime roster. It worked, as Nagurski was a key factor in Chicago’s winning the ’43 NFL Championship.
pronounced “WHEN”LB • Dallas Cowboys (1999-2005)
There’s just something to these two-syllable names that sounds like… impact. Like Emilio Estevez said when he threatened Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club: “Two hits: me hitting you, you hitting the ground.” Incidentally, according to PFR Nguyen is still the only player in NFL history to have been born in Vietnam.
OG • Detroit Lions (1943)
Damn — if only because of that name, the guy must have deserved to play more than one year in the league. My googling reveals that he served in the Navy during World War II, presumably after his one season with the Lions. His bach-rockin’ name was then wasted on a career as a sales manager in the chemical industry.
QB • Washington Redskins (1953-54), Pittsburgh Steelers (1956)
Yeech, there’s a gory mental image… if only to banish it, a not-gory physical image is at right. “Scarbath” seems more emblematic than threatening on a quarterback, a position much more likely to absorb physical punishment than mete it out.
WR • Cleveland Browns (1986-91), Houston Oilers (1992-94), Kansas City Chiefs (1995), New York Jets (1996), San Diego Chargers (1998)
The only un-badass thing about it was that he was a wideout, and in football terms, a little guy at 6'1″ and 175 lbs.
DT/DE • Oakland Raiders (1972-78)
My personal numero-uno football player name in the history of ever. To me, a single-digit-aged kid growing up in the Bay Area, the true personification of the John Madden-era Raiders was not one of the most often-cited figures: not scrappy left-handed quarterback Ken Stabler, nor the gangly star linebacker Ted Hendricks, nor the stickum-slathered wideout Fred Biletnikoff, nor all-pro guard Art Shell, nor the doughy, angst-ridden Madden himself, nor even the ubiquitously track-suited figure of the late Al Davis. No, I liked the big guy in the number 60 jersey. The dude with the shaved head1 and the gap-toothed smile and the funny name. Otis Sistrunk was as imposing, hard to move, and (in my imagination, at least) generally amiable as the pachyderm his name called to mind. He was like a football-playing Babar. What’s not to love?
E • Cleveland Browns (1946-52)
His middle name was Curtis, but his first name really was “Mac” and his last name really was “Speedie.” Poor guy was born too soon — he could have made a fortune as a pitchman for mac ‘n cheese in a box. Either that, or become a character on Grey’s Anatomy with, er, stamina problems.
DE • Los Angeles Rams (1971-84)
Played for much of his career alongside his brother, Rams linebacker Jim Youngblood. That’s a lot of blood on the field before the ball is even snapped. I hated these guys, because they played for the arch-rivals of my lifelong rooting allegiance, the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, that was back when L.A. could be bothered to keep a pro football franchise.
- Remember, this was the 1970′s. The original production of Hair was a hit on Broadway, and everywhere you looked were big natural afros and shoulder-length-or-longer locks on guys and girls alike. A cleanly-shaved head was nowhere near the commonplace choice for men that it is now — in fact, it was a pretty daring and unique look. ↩