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The 100 Greatest Player Names in Pro Football History

Photo by Jon Tyson (Unsplash)

Becoming a professional football player is an incredibly difficult task. Yet, over the years, quite a few people have managed to accomplish the feat.

Pro Football Reference’s player index, which includes members of NFL, AFL, and AAFC teams, has profiles for 26,740 players. I have read through the entire list with the goal of finding the 100 greatest names in the history of pro football.

Why on earth did I decide to do this? Because most ranking lists are little more than debate fodder to begin with, and if you’re anything like me, you’re a little tired of hearing the same arguments over and over again.

Not everything has to matter. These guys have weird, funny, and cool names. I enjoyed reading them, and they deserve to be recognized.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and I generally agree. But in this instance, we’re looking exclusively at covers. Let’s roll.

Honorable Mentions

Before we reach the top 100, here are some names that missed the cut, divided into categories.

The Animals

(Note: a few more will appear on the main list)
-Le’Raven Clark
-Moose Cochran
-Dick Falcon
-Bull Finch (bonus points!)
-Goose Gonsoulin
-Hippo Gozdowski
-Horse Hagerty
-Bug Hartzog
-Gator Hoskins
-Chick Jagade
-Rabbit Keen
-Bear Pascoe
-Tim Pidgeon
-Sheepy Redeen
-Rachad Wildgoose
-Pooh Bear Williams
-Mule Wilson
-Wildcat Wilson

The All-NBA Team

-Anthony Edwards
-Michael Jordan
-Joe Johnson
-Tim Duncan
-Karim Abdul-Jabbar

Sixth Man: Brandon Jennings
Team Manager: Kevin Garrett (you were so close, buddy)

Repetitive Name Club (some of my favorites)

-Chick Cichowski
-Dave Davis
-Filip Filipovic
-Harry Harris
-Jack Jackson
-Sig Sigurdson

“Small” Guys

-Shorty Barr
-Tiny Feather
-Kid Hill
-Tiny Ladson
-Joe Little Twig
-Wee Willie Smith

Your Last Name Starts With X

-Oshane Ximines (he’s the only one — go Giants); if you’re curious, the most common starting letter for last names is B (2,585 players).

Main event time!

The Top 100 Names in Pro Football History

100. Frank Zombo
Combining the tough, traditional “Frank” with the wild “Zombo” makes for a name to be feared.

99. Al Afalava
Winner of the tongue-twister award.

98. Mister Alexander
“Hello, Mister Alexander?”
“That’s Mr. Mister Alexander to you.”

97. Bullets Walson
BULLETS.

96. Bibbels Bawel
And he attended Boonville High School.

95. Fred Failing
At least he succeeded by making this list.

94. Tuffy Leemans
A real tuff guy.

93. Stone Hallquist
Probably the opponent in the next “Rocky” movie.

92. Rocky McIntosh
Why would anyone go by Roger when you can go by Rocky?

91. Woodchuck Welmas
How much wood would a Woodchuck Welmas chuck if a Woodchuck Welmas could chuck wood?

90. Bubba Bean
This name is Money…ball.

89. Ziggy Czarobski
An offensive lineman. Big Zig.

88. Shag Goolsby
Winner of the “Sounds most like a ‘Scooby-Doo’ name” award.

87. Scooby Wright III
Nevermind.

86. Pong Unitas
Probably Johnny Unitas’ college nickname.

85. Buster Rhymes
If you are the inspiration for a rapper’s stage name, you have to make the list.

84. Alabama Pitts
The smell of a locker room after practice in Tuscaloosa.

83. Buzz Sawyer
Facing this guy is like running into a…

82. Camaron Cheeseman
He doesn't play for the Packers. How can we fix this?

81. Slats Dalrymple
Played one game for the 1922 Evansville Crimson Giants. Amazing.

80. Chet Lagod
He’s a god…what else do I have to say?

79. Cassanova McKinzy
That is SMOOTH.

78. Backnor
We don’t know his full name. He is only listed as Backnor. I choose to believe he is a dragon.

77. Chunky Clements
301 pounds. Checks out.

76. Izzy Yablok
The sequence of ZZYY in his name. Yes!

75. Legedu Naanee
He has a leg up on most names.

74. King Hill
All of his games aired on Fox.

73. Nick Toon
All of his games aired on…

72. Honolulu Hughes
Was born in Honolulu and died in Honolulu. Respect.

71. Bucko Kilroy
Still wanted in the Wild West.

70. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
69. Akbar Gbaja-Biamila

It’s a Gbaja-Biamila familia!

68. Visco Grgich
Known for his pep talks. When Visco Grgich speaks, you listen.

67. Peerless Price
Unmatched.

66. Al Hoptowit
Unfortunately did not play with Rabbit Keen.

65. Wop Drumstead
Another one-game wonder. Luckily, that’s enough for this list.

64. Haywood Jeffires
It’s pronounced “Jeffries,” but that won’t stop me from singing his full name (Haywood Franklin Jeffires) to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

63. C.J. Ah You
Seven letters, three words. Impressive.

62. Vinnie Yablonski
Are you really going to mess with a guy named Vinnie Yablonski?

61. Dan Dierdorf
The Hall of Famer has a classic, old-school football name.

60. Bourbon Bondurant
All of the style points go to Bourbon Bondurant.

59. Jabbar Threats
Is that a threat(s)?

58. Julius Peppers
Personal pick here. I’ve always thought this was a sweet name.

57. Tarzan Taylor
Not to be confused with the wrestler Tarzan Tyler.

56. Tamba Hali
Sounds like royalty.

55. Bullet Baker
Another guy named Bullet(s)! But the flow here is so much greater.

54. Moses Regular
His first name is extraordinary. His last name is Regular.

53. Fred Acorn
Oak-K!

52. Shiloh Keo
Is rhyming so overrated it’s underrated? I think so.

51. DiCaprio Bootle
He and Leonardo DiCaprio have one Oscar combined.

50. Leger Douzable
Making the top 50? Sounds Douzable.

49. Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Vaitai sounds like my kind of guy.

48. Boss Bailey
47. Champ Bailey

Simple. Confident. Effective.

46. Ted Lone Wolf
I bet he’d still like a friend.

45. Al Bloodgood
But that friend probably shouldn’t be Al Bloodgood. Geez.

44. Olamide Zaccheaus
Here’s hoping a cool name is ze key to victory. (This was a bad one, I know.)

43. Deommodore Lenoir
Coolness absolutely overflowing.

42. Father Lumpkin
Earned his nickname as a freshman in college because of his fatherly manner. No idea how that went over when he was a rookie in the NFL.

41. Fish Smithson
Sounds like the protagonist of a cartoon about a fish going to human school.

40. Dirt Winston
Do you think a man named Dirt was afraid of anything?

39. Fred Chicken
Fred Chicken, on the other hand, was probably afraid of lots of things. We love him anyways.

38. Rock Ya-Sin
A man in complete control.

37. Bruiser Kinard
This Hall of Famer played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees (wait — I thought those were baseball teams!)

36. Whizzer White
The future U.S. Supreme Court Justice had one of the finest nicknames of his era.

35. Shockmain Davis
Electrifying.

34. I.M. Hipp
Sure you are.

33. Knuckles Boyle
The NFL’s version of Tungsten Arm O’Doyle.

32. Taco Wallace
Let’s not overanalyze this. It’s Taco Wallace.

31. R-Kal Truluck
Sounds like a comic book villain. Incredible.

30. Napoleon Barrel
At 5'8", Barrel was two inches taller than Napoleon Bonaparte.

29. Michael Hoomanawanui
28. T.J. Houshmandzadeh

These long “H” last names pull all the weight here, but man do they pull a ton of weight.

27. Bill Pickel
Would you like a Bill Pickel with your Fred Chicken?

26. Bob Margarita
Life is a party for Bob Margarita.

25. Cadillac Williams
Flashy —just like an elusive running back should be.

24. Shipwreck Kelly
It seems fitting that he died in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

23. Boogie Basham
A man who attacks the QB like it’s a game of Whac-A-Mole.

22. Crockett Gillmore
It just goes together so well.

21. Major Hazleton
Major vibes.

20. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen
Call me Ishmaa’ily!

19. Hercules Mata’afa
A very strong contender.

18. Mercury Morris
Out of this world.

17. Cannonball Butler
The bomb.

16. Johnny Jolly
Imagine being sacked by a man named Jolly.

15. Dick Butkus
One of the most feared players of his era and deservedly so.

14. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Four names in two! This was always so fun to say.

13. Divine Deablo
A man who plays with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.

12. Atari Bigby
He brought Atari to a new generation.

11. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
A name so good it’s not even funny.

10. Too Tall Jones
At 6'9", this is perhaps the most accurate name on the list and a classic.

9. Bacarri Rambo
Action-packed.

8. Dilly Dally
Let’s not waste any time.

7. Frostee Rucker
Delicious.

6. Sneeze Achiu
Bless you.

5. Quentin Jammer
Our #1 spot for non-nicknames. It gives me immense pleasure knowing there was once a baby known as Quentin Jammer.

4. Bronko Nagurski
A legendary moniker for a legendary athlete.

3. Death Halladay
He’ll give you a permanent vacation.

2. Johnny Blood
Rugged and tough as nails. This name is the whole package.

1. Night Train Lane
The coolest, the smoothest, the catchiest. He is untouchable. His name is perfection. He is the one, the only, Night Train Lane.

Connor Groel is a professional sports researcher and the author of two books, including “Significant Figures: Statistical Stories Throughout NFL History,” published in August 2022. He also manages the Top Level Sports publication here on Medium.

You can follow Connor on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

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