So many great nicknames not only fit their owner, but they would be cool no matter who they were describing. From Ed “Too Tall” Jones to Dave “Deacon” Jones to Jack Tatum as “The Assassin,” some of the greatest players live up to their names, and these are the 20 greatest nicknames in the history of the National Football League:
20. Terry Bradshaw, “The Blonde Bomber”
Due to his blonde hair and tendency to throw the ball deep down the field, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw is still known as the Blonde Bomber. It is simple, but it stands out for sure.
19. Mike Alstott, “A-Train”
One of my favorite players to watch growing up, Mike Alstott earned his nickname as the A-Train. As a human train running through defenses, Alstott was one of the best fullbacks with the ball in his hands during his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He not only ran through defenders, but also jumped over them into the end zone for touchdowns. His low center of gravity made him extremely difficult to knock to the ground, running through tackles like a runaway train.
18. Devin Hester, “Anytime”
The name itself isn’t actually that cool, but what it means makes it a must-have addition to this list. The fact that Devin Hester could change a game with a kick or punt return anytime, even as a rookie, is why this name makes complete sense and is one of the top player nicknames of all time.
17. Darrelle Revis, “Revis Island”
A place NFL receivers did not want to be was on Revis Island. After locking down wideouts, Darrelle Revis was given the moniker because you might as well be all alone on an island when he was covering you.
16. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson
After dyeing his shoes in high school because of a dare, Billy Johnson was then known as White Shoes. One of the best return men in NFL history was known for his footwear, his dancing, and lightning speed into the end zone.
15. Red Grange, “Galloping Ghost”
I don’t feel like I really need to explain why this is cool. The Galloping Ghost, a nickname given to Hall of Famer Red Grange, is truly a sweet name. Being a ghost would be cool, but the galloping ghost just adds a piece that ties into Granges so fast, you couldn’t even see him.
14. William “The Refrigerator” Perry
Few nicknames are as perfect as the Refrigerator was for William Perry. As a man who was the size of an actual full-sized fridge, it make such perfect sense and is still one of the best ever. The Fridge became even more famous when he scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
13. Calvin Johnson, “Megatron”
As a complete freak of a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, it should come as no surprise that Calvin Johnson got his nickname from a transformer since he was basically built like one of those monstrous robots.
12. Jerome Bettis, “The Bus”
With a train already on the list, it only makes since to have The Bus, too. Running back Jerome Bettis plowed through defenders like an actual school bus running through, well, human defenders. There aren’t many people I would want to stand in front of less than The Bus coming through a hole untouched.
11. Reggie White, “The Minister of Defense”
Only second to Bruce Smith in all-time sacks, Reggie White dominated the NFL at defensive end. So being called the Minister of Defense really made sense because he controlled every game on the defensive side of the ball for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers.
One of the most fascinating reads you’ll find is White’s book on what his faith, and his nickname, really meant off of the football field.
10. Brian Dawkins, “Weapon X”
Still to this day, I am honestly terrified of Brian Dawkins. With that blacked-out visor and how he screamed and played on the football field, he was truly scary. So calling him Weapon X, which gives the feeling of a lab experiment created to destroy, makes perfect sense; all he did was destroy everything in his path during his Hall-of-Fame career.
9. Jevon Kearse, “The Freak”
Right now, we have the Greek Freak playing for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, but THE Freak came first.
Jevon Kearse was another player who was scary for offenses because he was a physical specimen who couldn’t be stopped. And not only is it cool to be known as any type of freak, but to be THE freak is just iconic.
8. Dick “Night Train” Lane
I like the nickname of historic cornerback Dick Lane because it is kind of subtle. And it just rolls off the tongue with his last name as Night Train Lane. But I can just imagine how cool it would be to have a player get destroyed by him and say he was just hit by the Night Train. Just amazing.
7. Michael Irvin, “The Playmaker”
Similar to The Freak, Dallas Cowboys’ receiver Michael Irvin was known as THE Playmaker. There have been countless playmakers in the history of the National Football League, but only one is known as The Playmaker. That alone just makes it a great nickname that so many would be jealous of.
6. Deion Sanders, “Neon Deion” and “Prime Time”
Both of Deion Sanders‘ nicknames are great. They both relate back to his flashy play style and personality, but each are great in their own way. Neon Deion is awesome because it’s a play off of his bright self. Prime Time is amazing because it is a comment on his big-play ability in big moments, and the prime time games he shined in.
5. “Mean Joe Greene”
In football, it was important to have an attitude for a long time, especially as a defensive lineman. Few could say they had more of an attitude than the man who has a nickname calling him mean. Joe Greene also had the perfect name to compliment his nickname as Mean Joe.
4. Joe Namath, “Broadway Joe”
It is impossible to embody a nickname more than Joe Namath did throughout his career in New York and still does today. Broadway Joe lived the movie star life as a quarterback and still does so when he gets his chance to be on television.
3. Marshawn Lynch, “Beast Mode”
Going Beast Mode is a saying people use to describe being unstoppable. Marshawn Lynch did just that against the New Orleans Saints in January of 2011 during an NFC Wild Card game, but earned throughout his career. To be the guy everyone will think of as Beast Mode is cool.
2. Walter Payton, “Sweetness”
Speaking of sweet nicknames. Walter Payton, known as Sweetness, had the perfect name. His ability to smoothly move through defenses made sure he couldn’t have a better name. Everything he did was, for lack of a better word, sweet.
His sweetness got him to the No. 1 spot in all-time rushing yards during his career with the Chicago Bears, maybe making the name stand out a little more. If he had been called Sweetness but was an average running back, I doubt I would have him on the list.
1. Christian Okoye, “Nigerian Nightmare”
I refuse to hear any argument against The Nigerian Nightmare as the best nickname ever. Not only is it just badass, it also makes sense. Born in Nigeria, Christian Okoye wore giant shoulder pads and just looked like a true nightmare when he was coming at you.
This post was originally published on October 25, 2019.