Home Sport News Best NFL player nicknames – Origin stories of Beast Mode, more

Best NFL player nicknames – Origin stories of Beast Mode, more

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Marshawn Lynch has turned his on-field nickname — “Beast Mode” — into an off-field brand.

Who else has marketable monikers? NFL Nation reporters highlight the best nickname in every locker room and their origin stories.

Lawrence, who finished last season with the second-most sacks (14.5) in the league, got his nickname while wrestling with his older brother’s friend as a young child. “He DDT’s me and he’s like, ‘Oh, I tanked him.’ So he just started calling me ‘Tank’ and everybody in the hood just started calling me ‘Tank’ and as I was growing up it just carried with football,” Lawrence said. “Now I do the tanking.” — Todd Archer

Running back Saquon Barkley: “SaQuads”

It’s really a tie between Barkley and Damon “Snacks” Harrison. “SaQuads” was given to Barkley by new teammate Odell Beckham Jr. after seeing the size of the rookie’s legs. It has started to spread, even if Barkley is hoping it fades. “Hopefully I can get a different nickname for what I do on the field, not my legs,” he said. Snacks’ nickname is what it seems. It was created by former Jets defensive line coach Karl Dunbar because Harrison was always snacking in the meeting rooms. Read more about “SaQuads.” — Jordan Raanan

Safety Stephen Roberts: “Skinny Pimp”

Teammates and coaches alike call the rookie by his nickname. A coach gave Roberts — who is 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds — the name at Auburn because of his build. Roberts made it his Instagram handle, and it spread like wildfire from there. — Tim McManus

Tackle Trent Williams: “Silverback”

The Pro Bowler’s nickname was given to him by teammates at Oklahoma. “I’m always saying how I want to be a beast on the field, and Silverback is a beast, so they just kind of gave me the nickname,” Williams said. He has a Silverback gorilla tattooed on his back, once paid $150,000 for a Silverback gorilla chain and has a painting in his basement of him blocking, yes, a Silverback gorilla. Williams was once asked on the radio by former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson about the racial overtones of his nickname. “I understand,” Williams told him. “But I just feel like this day and age, we’re trying to move past that.” — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel: “Turbo”

The Bears gave the veteran his nickname because of his elite speed. Gabriel has proven he can be a home-run hitter on offense. In Atlanta, Gabriel averaged 16.5 yards per reception during the 2016 season. “With a name like Turbo, you got to be fast,” Bears all-purpose threat Tarik Cohen, another speedster, joked with reporters at mandatory minicamp. “They clocked Turbo running like 24 miles per hour the other day.” — Jeff Dickerson

Returner Jamal Agnew: “Swagnew”

Agnew earned the name in the defensive backs room at the University of San Diego, when he said Devyn Bryant told him he had “the most swagger on the field and my last name, it comes with it.” Agnew loved the nickname — it was part of his Twitter presence for a bit — but admitted that it has since gotten old. His family would start screaming it during games and “now my dad uses it.” And that turned what was a cool, swaggy nickname into the equivalent of a dad joke. So he let his dad have the nickname recently and he’s moved on. Even so, college friends, fans and even some current teammates continue to call him “Swagnew” because, well, it just fits. — Michael Rothstein

Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: “Ha Ha”

Believe it or not, Ha Ha is not actually his first name. It’s Ha’Sean. But his grandmother gave him the nickname “Ha Ha” when he was 3 years old because of his penchant for giggling. Plus, Clinton-Dix likes that better than people mispronouncing his given name. It’s pronounced “Ha-Seen” and not “Ha-Shawn.” For short, many teammates and coaches have taken to call him simply “Ha.” — Rob Demovsky

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes: “Rhodes Closed”

After shadowing and shutting down dozens of the league’s top receivers over the past few seasons, Rhodes’ last name has become the play on words for his play on the field. It reflects the danger of quarterbacks throwing into the elite corner’s direction. The nickname really began to take off in 2016 when Rhodes allowed the lowest percentage of passes (48 percent) caught among all cornerbacks and earned even more notoriety when he rendered the likes of Michael Evans, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown ineffective last season. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Running back Romarius “Ito” Smith

The rookie got his nickname when he was born in September of 1995, during the O.J. Simpson trial. A family member visited the hospital and said Smith looked like Judge Lance Ito from the television. “Everybody been calling me Ito ever since then,” Smith said. Read more. — Vaughn McClure

Quarterback Cam Newton: “Sensei of Nicknames”

Stick with me here. Newton gave himself that nickname. It fits when you consider he has one for half the team. A few that stand out are Julius Peppers (“Frazier”), Thomas Davis (“The Mayor of Charlotte”) and Luke Kuechly (“Captain America”). So why give the title of best nickname to anyone but the man who is the creator of them? Read more of origin stories of Newton nicknames here. — David Newton

Wide receiver Michael Thomas: “CantGuardMike”

Thomas knows the responsibility that comes with the nickname and Twitter handle he came up with even before he broke out at Ohio State. But the Pro Bowl receiver (and nephew of Keyshawn Johnson) said that’s the mindset top receivers need to have. “I was a big fan of Allen Iverson, and he was ‘The Answer.’ And playing receiver, you want to have that mindset where like no one can guard you, and you want to play like that and walk it like you talk it,” Thomas said. — Mike Triplett

Defensive tackle Vita Vea: “Maui”

Gerald McCoy gave the rookie the nickname “Maui” because he thinks Vea looks just like the Disney character who is the demigod of the South Pacific. Part of his rookie initiation involves acting the part. “In Vita’s mandatory rookie duties, you can mark it, I told him he has to tell my children that he is Maui from ‘Moana,'” McCoy said. “When he introduces himself to my kids, that’s the only rookie duty I am going to give him. There is no dinner, there is none of that. ‘You make sure when you introduce yourself to my kids, you introduce yourself as Maui, no questions asked.’ He doesn’t get an option.” — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Offensive lineman Greg Pyke: “Red Santa”

Pyke got his nickname because he’s a redhead. Pyke, a former Georgia Bulldog, was signed in May after participating in Arizona’s rookie minicamp on a try-out basis. — Josh Weinfuss

Safety John Johnson III: “The Baja Man”

Teammates started calling Johnson by his nickname after he arrived at the offseason program sporting bleached hair twists, a departure from his usual dark hair that was cut in a fade. “Ask him ‘Who let the dogs out?'” punter Johnny Hekker said, smiling. — Lindsey Thiry

Safety Adrian Colbert: “The Punisher”

Twitter named Colbert after the popular Marvel character when he first flashed a penchant for delivering big hits. He’s embraced the nickname and even has some “Punisher” merchandise. — Nick Wagoner

Tight end Will Dissly: “Uncle Will”

Dissly is known by his nickname to many. General manager John Schneider even addressed Dissly as such on draft day when he called to tell the University of Washington product that the Seahawks were choosing him in the fourth round. Where’d the nickname come from? “Well, I do have a niece,” Dissly said, “but I think it might have something to do with the hairline.” — Brady Henderson

AFC EAST

Tackle Dion Dawkins: “Shnowman”

The name fits well with Buffalo’s wintry weather. Instead of the phrase “you already should know,” Dawkins used “you already shnow” in prep school to have more “swag” as an offensive lineman, he said. Dawkins makes frequent use on social media of the hashtag #youalreadyshnow and was the star of a Bills-produced video late last season as the “shnowman” shoveling snow in New Era Field. — Mike Rodak

Wide receiver Jakeem Grant: “Mighty Mouse”

The 2016 sixth-round pick stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 169 pounds, drawing comparisons to the superhero cartoon character. “He’s small, but we call him Mighty Mouse,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said in 2016, according to the Palm Beach Post. “He’s making plays all over the field.” Grant did not catch a pass as a rookie but had 13 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns last season. “Mighty Mouse” will look to earn a role this summer as part of an unsettled receiver depth chart. — Mike Rodak

Wide receiver Julian Edelman: “The Squirrel”

Given his scrappy style of play, Edelman once described his nickname this way: “Just like a squirrel trying to find a nut out there.” In 2016, Edelman wore a Richmond Flying Squirrels hat in the locker room, which created a connection with the San Francisco Giants Double-A affiliate. — Mike Reiss

Defensive end Leonard Williams: “Big Cat”

Have you seen his hair? The shape resembles that of a lion’s mane. He also has a first name that fits: Leo the lion. Get it? — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Nose tackle Brandon Williams: “Big Baby”

Williams said the nickname dates back to childhood and there is a simple reason for it. “I was always an abnormally large kid and had the baby face,” Williams said. “There were times for my Police Athletic League games where my mom had to literally run from the stands with my birth certificate because teams didn’t believe I was as young as I was.” –Jamison Hensley

Quarterback Andy Dalton: “Red Rifle”

The nickname was coined by a Bengals radio announcer during the preseason in Dalton’s rookie year. It’s spawned some variations as well, including a joke by Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. The Texans beat the Bengals in 2015, and after the game, Watt said ‘Our goal was to come out here and make the Red Rifle look like a Red Ryder BB gun.” The joke was not well received by Dalton at the time. — Katherine Terrell

Tight end David Njoku: “Chief”

Njoku’s father Innocent is Nigerian and a chief in the Igbo tribe in Nigeria. In middle school, his father started calling Njoku “Chief” and the name stuck. Njoku’s social media name is Chief David Njoku. — Pat McManamon

Linebacker Tyler Matakevich: “Dirty Red”

Matakevich is known to his teammates as this thanks to Mike Tomlin. The head coach started using the nickname in 2016 training camp because of Matakevich’s unmistakable red hair, and the third-year player figured getting noticed was a good thing. “He can call me whatever he wants,” said Matakevich, who could start at linebacker this season. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Safety Tyrann Mathieu: “Honey Badger”

Mathieu got his nickname in college. On one of LSU’s flights home after Mathieu had a big game, defensive coordinator John Chavis played a video for the team of a honey badger hunting snakes. In the video, the narrator says the honey badger “is pretty badass and runs all over the place.” He also repeats the phrase, “honey badger don’t care.” After the team saw the video, the nickname stuck. — Sarah Barshop

Wide receiver K.J. Brent: “Sweat”

Brent was often called the nickname for R&B singer Keith Sweat, because his real name is Keith and his Twitter handle used to be “Keith No Sweat” before he eventually changed it. Brent said he had no Sweat in him like the singer, but his friends still gave him the nickname Sweat. — Mike Wells

Running back Corey Grant: “Coco”

Grant’s original nickname, “Taillights,” was given to him by a TV announcer at Auburn when he broke away on a kickoff return for a touchdown. Plus, he ran a sub-4.30 40 at his pro day. But now he’s known as “Coco” thanks to Leonard Fournette. “You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth,” Grant said of Fournette. “[He] decided to start calling me Coco.” Grant, however, has fought back. “I call [Fournette] Lee-Lee, call T.J. [Yeldon] Tee-Tee,” Grant said. “It’s kind of something we have in our [running back] room, but it seems like Coco has spread over the entire team.” Grant said he’s “perfectly fine” with the nickname, but admits that Taillights is better. — Mike DiRocco

Running back Derrick Henry: “El Tractorcito”

Henry’s nickname was coined by ESPN anchor Pablo Viruega while watching the Alabama back run wild against Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. The Spanish nickname, which translates to “the little tractor,” was heard by ESPN Deportes viewers and spread into a meme on social media afterward. Henry has embraced it as an accurate description of his game. If you’ve seen the 6-foot-3, 245-pound running back hit the edge in the fourth quarter then take off on defenders reluctant to take him down, then you’ll see why El Tractorcito makes perfect sense. — Cameron Wolfe

AFC WEST

The secondary: “No Fly Zone”

When it comes to nicknames, the Broncos might stand alone. Or, in the words of Von Miller: “I guess we don’t really have any.” Not for players anyway. But as a group, the No Fly Zone — cornerback Chris Harris Jr‘s idea — leads the way. Harris and his wife put together merchandise when the Broncos’ secondary led the NFL in 2015 and 2016 when the group included Harris, Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward to go with cornerback Bradley Roby as the addition on passing downs. And when some of the younger players like safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks emerged, Simmons called it “Baby No Fly.” — Jeff Legwold

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill: “Cheetah”

That’s a reference to his world-class speed. He even changed his Twitter handle from @ImFasterThanYa to @Cheetah. — Adam Teicher

Cornerback Casey Hayward: “Showcase”

Nicknamed for his ability to make game-changing plays, Hayward’s 11 interceptions over the past two seasons is tied with Marcus Peters for most in the NFL. Hayward’s twitter handle is even @show_case29. “For the past two years the way he’s been balling, he’s actually showcasing himself that he’s the No. 1 corner in the league,” said Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin about Hayward. — Eric D. Williams

Running back Marshawn Lynch: “Beast Mode”

More than a nickname, it is a way of life for the hard-charging running back. And a lucrative brand for Lynch, who has used the phrase to sell items from apparel to cell phones. “Beast Mode” is that rare phrase that can be a noun, adjective, verb and an adverb — with some tweaking. On the field, “Beast Mode” refers to how hard the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Lynch runs the ball. “I tried to tackle him … and I had him behind the line, it was like a yard, and I think I had one leg and he dragged me for the next 2 (yards) and got the first down,” said Broncos linebacker Von Miller. “Usually when you get a running back like that, he’ll just fall. Marshawn, he’s definitely ‘Beast Mode.’ They call him that for a reason.” — Paul Gutierrez





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