DAILY DIRT: ‘The Assassin,’ ‘Booger’ and ‘Night Train’ lead best-ever NFL nicknames


Daily Dirt for Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023

But let’s never forget “Greg the Leg” … Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 767 of The Daily Dirt.

1. Since I was a wee lad — and yes, that was quite some ago — Sunday afternoons, then Monday nights, then Sunday evenings and now Thursday nights have always meant camping out in front of the nearest TV for NFL football.

And what has always been part of the appeal of this great game? For me, it’s been the nicknames attached to some of the league’s top players. Some fans enjoyed watching Gayle Sayers. I was enthralled by the “Kansas Comet”. Many fans idolized Walter Payton. Me? I loved watching “Sweetness”.

You get the idea.

So with that in mind, here are my top 20 favorite NFL nicknames that drew me to certain players and teams.

  • 1. Jack “The Assassin” Tatum: Still regarded as one of the most devastating tacklers in NFL history. The Hall of Fame defensive back brought that reputation to the NFL from Ohio State.
  • 2. Anthony “Booger” McFarland: The former defensive lineman was dubbed “Booger” at age 2 for his feisty behavior. Whew! Thought it was for another reason.
  • 3. Dick “Night Train” Lane: His 14 interceptions in a single season still stands as an NFL record. For years, as a wee lad, Lane was one of my favorite non-Cleveland Browns players. 
  • 4. Lester “The Molester” Hayes: One of my favorite defensive players from those old AFL teams. His forearms were always covered with stick-em. 
  • 5. Richard “Optimus Prime” Sherman: Another defensive back. There seems to be a trend here. If you’re wondering about the nickname, skip ahead to Calvin Johnson.
  • 6. Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein: Best name ever for a kicker. Runner-up? Probably Lou “The Toe” Groza.
  • 7. Andy “The Red Rifle” Dalton: Red hair. Quarterback. Obvious, but still entertaining.
  • 8. Ryan “The Amish Rifle” Fitzpatrick: Big beard. Quarterback. Also entertaining.
  • 9. Tyrann “The Honey Badger” Matthieu: I was fascinated by Matthieu the first time I heard that nickname, dating to his days at LSU. It was said he played with the ferocity of a honey badger. I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure what a honey badger is, but it has to be something pretty fierce. 
  • 10. Earl “The Tyler Rose” Campbell: I always felt it was the perfect nickname for the perfect running back.
  • 11. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson: The wide receiver was compared to one of the Transformers, and rightly so.
  • 12. Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch: Wisely, the hard-charging Lynch had that nickname trademarked.
  • 13. Karl “The Albino Rhino” Mecklenburg: The nickname can be traced to his days playing college ball at Minnesota, and carried over during his career in Denver.
  • 14. Marion “The Barbarian” Barber: The nickname described his physical play — as a running back, no less.  
  • 15. Christian “The Nigerian Nightmare” Okoye: A magnificent — and scary — running back.
  • 16. Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas: One of the many, hard-hitting Raiders defensive backs of the 1970s and 1980s.
  • 17. Lance “Bambi” Alworth: Was there ever a more perfect moniker for a gifted wide receiver?
  • 18. Ed “Too Tall” Jones: Simply a classic, especially for a defensive lineman.
  • 19. Jack “The Throwin’ Samoan” Thompson: Thompson would have benefitted greatly from today’s wide-open approach to offense.
  • 20. Jared  “The Pillsbury Throwboy” Lorenzen: The quarterback literally ate his way out of the NFL, but hey, he had a great time along the way.

2. It’s time for another edition of “That’s A Fact, Jack!”:

  • Chicken brains are concentrated at the back of the skull, and there isn’t much to begin with anyway. For that reason, a decapitated chicken can survive for quite a while, living off just its nerve endings. 
  • A chicken in Colorado in 1945 lived without a head for 18 months, according to information supplied by insider.com. Its owner, a farmer named Lloyd Olsen, chopped his head off, but the chicken just didn’t die. So the family kept him around and dropped food and water directly into his esophagus.
  • Hippo milk is pink.
  • Most toilet paper sold for home use in France is also pink. I think that’s probably a coincidence with the hippo milk thing.
  • It’s estimated that the typical pencil has enough graphite to draw a line 35 miles long, or 20 times the length of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • The color blue attracts mosquitoes twice as much than any other color.

3. The best signs we came across across this week:

  • “My wife said I never listen to her, or something like that.”
  • (Highway sign) “Get your head out of your apps.”
  • “I call my horse Mayo, and sometimes Mayo neighs.”
  • “Diapers and politicians should be changed often. Both for the same reason.”
  • “Poop jokes aren’t my favorite puns, but they’re a solid No. 2.”

Steve Thought O’ The Day — If I had played in the NFL, my nickname may have been “The Sandwich”.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. No condiments with him.

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