Best Football Nicknames

William Perry - File Photos
William Perry - File Photos / Bill Smith/GettyImages

Football nicknames. Everybody's got one. There have been many, many nicknames in football. Some of them have been great. Some of them have been bad. Many have been fine. Below we have compiled a list of the 13 best in football history.

The Bus

Jerome Bettis is not only from Detroit, but he is also public transportation. Apparently, someone at the Notre Dame student newspaper compared Bettis to a bus and it stuck. No nickname has ever conveyed that someone was both large and running on a schedule so well.

Honey Badger

Tyrann Mathieu played at LSU in 2010 and 2011, which was around the same time that the Internet fell in love with the honey badger. Mathieu captured the imagination in the same badass way. Things didn't work out for Mathieu and the Tigers, but he's continued to be worthy of the nickname as he became an All-Pro and eventually a Super Bowl champion.

Prime Time

While you may have heard him referred to as "Neon" Deion Sanders, he wants nothing to do with that. The Jackson State coach told Jimmy Fallon that the origin of the "Prime Time" nickname actually came from a teammate on the high school basketball team.


I mean, come on. This is the name an uncle gives to a child who keeps running into stuff, falling down, getting back up and running into more stuff. His son says it's because someone broke a pool cue over his head when he was a kid. According to Wikipedia, it almost might have been because he would lower his head and hit people in the stomach when he was running.

The Galloping Ghost

This one of Harold Edward Grange's top three nicknames. You know him as Red Grange, but he was also the "Wheaton Ice Man," which was based on another job he held. Grange credits Chicago writer Warren Brown with coming up with The Galloping Ghost, a nickname he somehow shared with Canadian football player Norm Perry. Whichever old-timey football player you think deserves the nickname, to this day no one knows what it means.

The Refrigerator

William Perry earned his legendary nickname as a freshman at Clemson when he and a teammate got into the elevator together on their way to do laundry and the teammate, Ray Brown, remarked he was as big as a refrigerator. This is according to South Carolina's official tourism website. The nickname stuck as Perry went on to become a huge star on the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Beast Mode

Marshawn Lynch has run like a beast going back to high school which is apparently where the nickname originated. By the time he scored on the Beast Quake run in the 2010 NFC Wild Card game, he had solidified his status as one of the most badass nickname-havers in football history.


As far as becoming one with your nickname, not many football players approach what Pacman Jones became as he asserted himself as one of the top cornerbacks and then became a walking TMZ headline. He's recently had some reputation rehab after it came out that he adopted former teammate Chris Henry's sons.


Speaking of guys who are simply their nickname, do you know what Deebo Samuel's actual name is? It's Tyshun Raequan Samuel, but when his name was called on the night of the NFL Draft, it was the nickname his father bestowed on him when he was younger. Now he's one of the most versatile players in the league.

Minister of Defense

Reggie White was so good that he was given a government position. Just kidding. White was an ordained minister which made for a very good play on words. For the defense part he was a 13-time All-Pro who finished his career with 198 sacks, the second-most ever behind Bruce Smith who played 47 more games.


Raghib Ismail had legendary speed and earned his nickname on the high school track team. He was so good and so fast that people then forced the nicknames "Missile" and "The Bomb." His NFL career didn't live up to his Notre Dame career, but he did reportedly run a 4.28 40-yard dash which is still right up there with the fastest combine times ever 30 years later.

Big Tuna

Do you remember the NFL on TNT? Well that's where we apparently got the origin for Bill Parcells' nickname. Via the Standard-Times:

Last night announcers for the TNT television network claimed that while working as a defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, Mr. Parcells was the subject of numerous practical jokes. Finally, in frustration, Mr. Parcells turned on the jokers and allegedly asked, "Who do you think I am? Tommy the Tuna?" (Some claim he said "Charlie the Tuna," like the Starkist advertisement).

Parcells would go on to win Super Bowls and yet he still had his nickname stole by a sitcom character.

White Shoes

Bill Johnson told FOX Sports that he had worn white shoes to football camp on a dare to see how the "no-nonsense, no-frills" coach would react. He did well enough that they became his trademark. Eventually, local news reporter Ed Gebhart called him, "Blazin' Billy White Shoes." It really is the most dude nickname ever. Hey, what should we call that guy with the white shoes? How about White Shoes? Brilliant!