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How Did Andy Dalton Earn His “Red Rifle” Nickname?
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

With Dak Prescott sidelined due to a gruesome ankle injury, the Dallas Cowboys have turned to veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to take the offensive reins for the foreseeable future.

It’s Dalton’s premier campaign in Dallas after the 33-year-old signal caller spent his first nine NFL seasons under center as the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback. Cincinnati ended up moving on from Dalton, with Zac Taylor and the Bengals opting to select Joe Burrow in the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Despite signing on as a backup in Dallas, unfortunate circumstances have thrust Dalton into the spotlight for America’s Team, and Cowboys fans will hope he can lead the squad to a playoff berth out of the lowly NFC East Division.

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Throughout his playing days in Cincinnati, Dalton was known for his moniker, the “Red Rifle,” a nickname likely to follow him to Dallas. While many NFL fans are aware of the nickname given to Dalton, less are knowledgeable as to how the 33-year-old came to adopt the sobriquet.

Why is Andy Dalton Called The Red Rifle?

RELATED: Andy Dalton’s Wife Met “The Red Rifle” in College and Had 3 Kids

Andy Dalton’s nickname has roots dating all the way back to his college football days, where he played for Texas Christian University. The moniker derives from the quarterback’s fiery red hair as well as his play style as a quarterback.

Quarterbacks arms are often compared to guns, though it typically refers to the player’s immense arm strength. Andy Dalton, however, is better known for his preference to throw short passes, thus making the rifle, an inherently accurate weapon, a perfect fit to describe his play style.

Alas, Dalton’s nickname was born.

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In an interview with fellow TCU standout LaDanian Tomlinson for FoxSports SouthWest, Dalton admitted he wasn’t extremely fond of the moniker the first time he heard it, but had no choice but to accept it once the nickname stuck.

“At first I didn’t like it. I’d rather people just call me by my name, Andy, than ‘Red Rifle.’ If I’m out somewhere to eat and people yell, ‘Hey, Red Rifle!’ I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, come on!’ I’ve learned to accept it because I know the name isn’t going anywhere.”

Evidently, Dalton isn’t the only one less than thrilled about the “Red Rifle” moniker. Back in 2015, the Bengals were off to a red-hot 8-0 start to the season before being matched up with the Houston Texans.

While discussing the matchup, Texans superstar defensive end J.J. Watt took a rather corny jab at Dalton and his nickname, in one of the weakest attempts at trash talk in NFL history.

“Our goal was to come out here and make the ‘Red Rifle’ look like a Red Ryder BB Gun,” Watt said.

Well, the Texans delivered, handing the Bengals their first loss of the season and keeping Dalton off the score sheet. After the game, Dalton responded to Watt’s remarks, and was not too happy about what the star defenseman had to say.

Dalton was first labeled as the “Red Rifle” back at TCU, where he started for the Horned Frogs for four seasons and became one of the best players in program history.

A three-star high school recruit, Dalton took charge of the offense as a freshman. Across his college tenure, Dalton tossed for 71 passing touchdowns, added 22 rushing touchdowns and threw 30 interceptions.

He won back-to-back Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year awards in 2009 and 2010 before punching his ticket to the pros, having been selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, one round after the organization picked fellow cornerstone, star wideout AJ Green.

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Day 2…

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Upon joining the Bengals, Dalton was immediately named the starting quarterback under head coach Marvin Lewis, and even made the Pro Bowl during his first NFL season. He made 133 starts for Cincinnati across nine seasons and made three trips to the Pro Bowl, including 2015 when he replaced Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.

As a member of the Bengals, Dalton threw for 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions while leading the team to four playoff berths. Unfortunately, Cincinnati never made it past the Wild Card round, with their most recent playoff loss coming to the Indianapolis Colts in 2014.

Now in Dallas, Dalton will look to navigate the Cowboys to the postseason, and achieve a feat he never could as the Bengals quarterback; winning a playoff game. In the short term, however, Dalton will be fixated on picking up key wins against the likes of the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dallas’ NFC East rivals, in addition to a coveted return game in Cincinnati to face the Bengals.

Dalton is by no means a Super Bowl champ or a Tom Brady-type talent, but he’s proven to be a good player throughout his time as the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback. Dalton is someone capable of getting things done during the fourth quarter, and he’ll look to prove that in his first start against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.

MORE: Patrick Mahomes’ Family Genes Created a Superstar QB

Karl Rasmussen is a sports writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon and is an avid fan of the Oregon Ducks, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Yankees and New York Jets.
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