I love the NFL and I love names. I love the names of many NFL players. This list is really the culmination of all of my life’s interests.
In it, I will be featuring many of my favorite names of NFL players since I have watched football (so from like 2001 on). I apologize for not going back further, but the last thing I want to do is scour rosters from the 1970’s in the hopes that I find a name that amuses me. And before you ask, no, none of the following names are funnier than Dick Butkus. That’s untouchable.
If there were a Hall of Fame of fun NFL names, Barkevious Mingo would surely enter on the first-ballot. Both Barkevious and Mingo are silly and fun on their own merits, but when combined, it’s like the moment a delicious barbecue sauce hits a delicious piece of brisket. There’s a harmony there that neither individual component could produce in itself.
In case I’m not the person to convince you that Barkevious Mingo is an incredible name, let me defer to avid NFL fan Daniel Radcliffe, who in a 2013 New York Times interview explained why his fantasy football team was called “Barkevious Mingo’s Mum:”
I just think Barkevious Mingo is the greatest name I’ve ever heard, and the fact that his mum invented that name is also amazing.
What he doesn’t mention here is that Barkevious Mingo’s mum also named one of his brothers Hughtavious, which shows a true commitment to the suffix “vious.” In fact, she got the names from the fact that she and her husband’s names are Barbara and Hugh. However, I do feel a little bit bad for Hughtavious since she also has a son named ‘Hugh III.’ When their mother called “HUGH!” angrily, I bet Hughtavious held his breath, hoping she wouldn’t add on a “Tavious.”
Peerless Price holds a special place in my heart because his name was the subject of one of the earliest dumb jokes that I can remember my father repeating over and over. It would go something like this:
“Hey Jake, you know why they call him Peerless?”
“Because he has no peers.”
It’s important to keep in mind that the reason I use the past tense of “would” is not because my dad stopped making that joke every time Peerless Price did anything of note during a game, it’s just that Peerless Price stopped playing in the NFL. I swear if I think the words “Peerless Price” when I’m in the same room as my dad, he’ll insist on reminding me that he has no peers.
In other news, something I didn’t know until I just checked his Wikipedia page is that apparently he was named after a moving company in the area he grew up (presumably called “Peerless”), which, I gotta say, ranks up there with the strangest things to name your kid after. And, in my opinion, it’s a pretty strange thing to name a moving company.
I love Lofa Tatupu and his name because when I first saw it written for the first time, I assumed it was not actually pronounced as funny as it sounded in my head, but I was wrong. His name is, in fact, LOH-fuh Tah-TOO-poo. As in: “They wanted me to bring a loaf of bread to the party, but instead I brought a Lofa Tatupu (in this example sentence, ‘Tatupu’ is a thing).”
Have I been known to refer to a loofah as a Loofah Tatupu? It’s entirely possible. There are just so many possibilities to make silly jokes to yourself with this name. It is a real shame that Tatupu’s career ended in 2010, because had he had a longer, more fruitful career, I could have made more puns about his name to greater acclaim.
You might be like, “Jake, how in the hell do you remember a cornerback who played literally 12 games over five years and only recorded 15 total tackles?!” but the answer is pretty simple: his name is Earthwind.
I honestly have no recollection of where I first encountered the man whose last name is not Andfire, but his existence is burned into my memory. Most of his playing time was on the Patriots in 2004, where, according to Wikipedia, he ended up fourth on the cornerback depth chart, since there had been several injuries at the position. Keep in mind, though, that the third-string cornerback was Troy Brown, a wide receiver who had never played cornerback professionally. So it might not surprise you that Earthwind did not play in the NFL the next year, despite winning the Super Bowl.
Two other things that won’t surprise you are that, yes, his mother did name him after Earth, Wind, and Fire, and that the photo I have next to his name is the best photo I can find of Mr. Moreland on the Internet.
I don’t know if there’s anything I love more in the world than when a mediocre-to-bad player gets an awesome or memorable nickname–hence why I have a soft spot for when absolute scrub Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell dubbed himself “Fred-Ex.” This phenomenon is why if someone remembers Green-Ellis’s career at all, it is likely the nickname he had bestowed upon him: The Law Firm.
Like a novelty Doctor Who graphic tee shirt on me, the Law Firm nickname fit Green-Ellis perfectly. It’s like, yeah, his name does sound like the name of a law firm. Don’t believe me? Say, “BenJarvus Green-Ellis: standing up for the little guy” and tell me it doesn’t sound like the tagline of a poorly-produced legal ad. Obviously plenty of NFL players and people at large have hyphenated last names, but the fact that his first name is also two names smushed together paints a full picture.
Underrated, too, about this name is that it is rather melodic. BenJarvus Green-Ellis. There’s a climb and a descent in how you say it. You don’t get that with either a Ben Green or Jarvus Ellis.
I feel like in some ways, Ndamukong Suh’s success and dominance in the NFL has distracted us from the fact that Ndamukong is one of the greatest names in the history of humanity (no hyperbole). Not only does it sound rad–it has the word ‘Kong’ in it–it also literally translates to ‘house of spears’ in the Ngemba language of Cameroon. You can’t top that.
And it might just be personal preference, but names that start with an ‘Nd’ are great because they introduce sounds that aren’t typically found in the English-speaking lexicon.
What I am divided on, though, is the last name “Suh.” Ending in an ‘h’ as opposed to a ‘u’ is certainly a stronger choice, but I almost think the name would be better if it was pronounced to rhyme with “duh” instead of “you.” Just something to think about.
I was not lying when I said I think names that start with “Nd” are great, and my old friend (we have never been friends) Chinedum Ndukwe is one of my favorite examples. I first became acquainted with Chinedum while he was at Notre Dame, and he became a fan-favorite (or at the very least a me-favorite) because he played at ND and was named “Nd.”
I could have chosen his older brother Ikechukwu, but I feel like that name just doesn’t glide off the tongue as easily as Chinedum. Also, it kinda gets dicey when trying to transition into the last name.
What I didn’t know about Chinedum (who apparently goes by ‘Nedu’ interpersonally) is that after the NFL, he attended Harvard Business and Wharton School of Business, and now runs a successful charity to help at-risk youth. In fact, the city of Cincinnati named February 10th “Chinedum Ndukwe Day.” So, I guess what I’m saying is that this article has been a learning experience for all of us.
My dude has the word ‘nacho’ in his name. To leave him off of this list would be tantamount to treason, and I love my country as much as the next red-blooded American.
And before you get disappointed, yes, the ‘nacho’ bit in ‘Ihenacho’ is still pronounced like one would pronounce ‘Nacho.’ For this is the reason I decided to pick a photo where he looked like a snack.
Not to be overlooked, however, is that his first name is Duke. It takes guts to go by a nickname that is literally a title of nobility, but you know what takes more guts? Naming your child a title of nobility. That’s right, his birth name is Duke. I feel like if you name your son Duke, he has to grow up to become a professional athlete or to own a beloved hole-in-the-wall barbecue place. There are no other options.
Listing HaHa Clinton-Dix on an article about great names in the NFL feels a bit like listing Citizen Kane on an article about great movies. Like, I’m not breaking any new ground in telling you that HaHa Clinton-Dix is truly a revelation of a name, but I would also be disingenuous if I neglected to mention that it is a revelation of a name.
The super-common joke made about his name (so common that it was literally impossible for me to find the first time it was made) is that “HaHa Clinton-Dix” sounds like the description of a Jay Leno monologue circa 1998. And while this joke is made super-duper often, it is such a specific observation that I cannot help but enjoy it every time.
This name could lose points because ‘HaHa’ is technically a nickname, but it doesn’t. When I first heard of Mr. Clinton-Dix, I naturally assumed that he got his moniker from when his grandmother started calling him “HaHa” because he laughed a lot or something (like how former University of Illinois quarterback Juice Williams got his name from when, upon seeing how large he was at birth, his grandmother exclaimed “That’s a juicy baby!”). However, HaHa comes from his birth name, Ha’Sean, which is such a bizarre twist on the name Sean that you can’t blame him for going by HaHa.
This name is a lot, and it doesn’t pretend otherwise. It reminds me a lot of actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (whose name I just spelled correctly without looking it up, no biggie) in the general rhythm and tenor I say it in. I don’t actually know if those are the right words to describe it since I don’t possess almost any vocabulary to talk about speech.
At this point, you might be wondering why I chose Kabeer instead of his brother Akbar, who had a less successful NFL career and now provides color commentary for American Ninja Warrior. For one, think Kabeer rolls into Gbaja-Biamila a little smoother than Akbar, but most importantly, Kabeer’s nickname was KGB. If your name lends itself to you being nicknamed after a nefarious spy organization known for offing people with umbrellas and other crazy gadgets, you’ve got a damn fine name.
If this list was purely for me to show off the obscure NFL players I can remember (it’s only about 20% that), this would be my ultimate heat check. If you’ve never heard of McLeod Bethel-Thompson, it’s because he literally never played a snap of NFL football. He was a practice squad quarterback for half a decade from 2011 to 2016 and only dressed for a small handful of actual NFL games.
I only remember McLeod because of his bonkers name, particularly for a white guy from San Francisco. For one, his parents decided to spell ‘McLeod’ in the super circumspect way, instead of the more straightforward ‘McCloud’ — a surname possessed by such luminaries as Fox McCloud. Then, to make things wackier, he has a hyphenated name. There’s just so much going on for a player who is ostensibly the least important person on your roster. Like, if a talkative defensive back wants to have a name like McLeod Bethel-Thompson, he’s well within his rights. But the practice squad quarterback? No siree. Practice squad quarterbacks should all be named John Beck.
Back on the subject of McLeod, apparently he’s been called McBLT, which doesn’t really make sense with how his name is constructed, but it’s a fun tidbit I couldn’t neglect mentioning.
If you don’t want to give Frostee Rucker a hug just based on that picture on the left, you don’t have a heart. And even if that picture didn’t exist, you should want to hug him because his name is Frostee.
Before making this list, I assumed, like any rational person would, that Frostee was a nickname that he picked up at some point, either through football or from an extended family member. Surely, I thought, no one would name their child “Frostee,” particularly with two e’s instead of a ‘y,’ but that is exactly what Frostee’s mother did, and we owe her thanks and praise.
As if that wasn’t surprising enough, according to the ol’ Wikipedia, he is named not after the snow or the cold, but poet Robert Frost, which, for those of you betting at home, is the last thing you think of when you hear the name “Frostee.”
The name as a whole is so great. Rucker is the absolute perfect name for a defensive end, in my opinion.
I remember there being a play in the Cardinals/Panthers 2015 Wild Card Game (a game made famous for Arizona’s Ryan Lindley putting up one of the worst quarterback performances in playoff history) in which Frostee Rucker tackled Fozzy Whittaker, and for that reason, they are inextricably linked in my mind.
Fozzy Whittaker is absolutely the perfect name for a shifty, pass-catching running back. I am tempted to say that it fits him better than it does the famous Bear. And in case you’re wondering if he is nicknamed after the bear, he is not. His full first name is “Foswhitt,” which is definitely not a name. And I cannot blame him for not going by it, since it would make his first name end with the same five letters that his last name begins with, which is one of those things that is weird for reasons I cannot explain.
A lot of creative NFL names have apostrophes in them, like De’Anthony Thomas or Ka’imi Fairbairn, but neither of those guys are listed here because they don’t use the apostrophe with as much gusto as Sen’Derrick marks.
Anyone can put an apostrophe after a “De” or “Le.” It takes real ingenuity to put an apostrophe after “Sen.” And it manages to be super intimidating, in my opinion. He was a defensive tackle, and you can’t look me in the eyes and tell me that offensive linemen feel good about lining up against a “Sen’Derrick.”
Also, there are several spellings of “Derrick” that Sen’Derrick’s mother (or father) could have chosen that would have been less forceful. “Sen’Derek,” for example, looks like the name of a hipster, electro-pop artist. “Sen’Derrick” is a man’s man who will split your shit if given the opportunity.
I know this is about NFL players, but I had to choose this photo from Burfict’s college days because, simply, it is the greatest football photo ever taken and likely the best one that will ever be taken. I don’t know the result of this play, but I can guarantee that USC quarterback Matt Barkley got absolutely fucked up on it.
As for Burfict’s name, it’s perfect, and yes, I used that word so it would rhyme. Much like Fozzy Whittaker, Vontaze Burfict is the only name he could have. Like, Vontaze Burfict has to be the name of a loose cannon linebacker who gets fined every other game. And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Jon Gruden say “Vontaze Burfict,” but it is one of life’s simple pleasures, like the first few bites of cereal before it gets too soggy.
I’m no fan of “deceptively athletic” white wide receivers, but I couldn’t in good conscience omit the dude who has “Vicious” in his name (albeit spelled differently). Unlike others on his list, his name doesn’t really fit him — I think “Jurevicius” is a much better name for a hard-hitting linebacker or safely. With that being said, everyone can benefit from having a bad ass last name.
And you cannot underrate the alliteration. It makes the whole name flow much smoother, which is why I’ve long called alliteration “the Drain-O of words” (I have never called it this). Just imagine being Al Michaels, shouting Joe Jurevicius’s name when he is streaking down the sideline after making a big catch. It just makes you feel good.
This is likely not the only list of these I will make, so if you have any suggestions of people whose names you love, let me know @TheJakeChristie, or in the comments section below, and I might include it in Part 2.