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Where Did These NFL Nicknames Come From?

Let's take a look at some of the best football monikers and their origin stories.
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Sep 20, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) tries to break free from Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry (53) in the second quarter at Lambeau Field.

Big Ben, William “Refrigerator” Perry, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch—these are just some of the best nicknames in football history. A nickname can launch a player into superstardom and endear him to the fans. But where did these nicknames come from? Why was NFL Hall of Famer and member of the NFL Top 100 Team Ted Hendricks nicknamed the Mad Stork? Come along as we do some deep digging into the roots of some of my favorite crazy nicknames!

Ted Hendricks: Mad Stork

Oakland Raiders legend Ted Hendricks was one of the most feared linebackers in NFL history, deservingly being named to the NFL Top 100 team and winning four Super Bowls. His reputation as a player doesn’t seem to fit his nickname. A stork doesn’t seem too scary, it’s just a tall bird! Well, Hendricks picked up the nickname as a standout linebacker for the University of Miami. Coming out of college, he was tall and thin—standing at 6’ 7” and weighing 220 pounds—just like a stork. Combine that with the crazy and intense way he played football, you have the Mad Stork.

Taysom Hill: Human Swiss Army Knife

New Orleans Saints special-teamer-turned-every-position-imaginabler Taysom Hill became a national sensation during his 2019 breakout season. He threw for touchdowns, caught touchdowns, ran for touchdowns, pancaked defensive lineman and forced fumbles on special teams. Basically, there was nothing he couldn’t do; he could probably write an article like this one if you asked him to! The Saints media dubbed him the Human Swiss Army Knife because he can be used in so many different ways, much like a Swiss Army Knife. He is a multipurpose player, and with Drew Brees retired, it will be interesting to see how much QB he plays in the coming seasons. He was rewarded by becoming the second highest paid backup QB in the NFL (That is his “official” position, but so far this year, he has played QB, TE, RB, WR and Special Teams).

Marshawn Lynch: Beast Mode

The story behind Beast Mode is a bit of a mystery. It is widely speculated that former high school teammate Leon Powe gave him the nickname based on his running style, but Powe denies that he gave it to him. While the origin is a mystery, the nickname Beast Mode is a perfect way to describe Marshawn Lynch. He ran like a beast, breaking tackles and running people over. Some would say he was Derrick Henry before Derrick Henry. Beast Mode is also known for his one liners, being one of the funniest players in sports history. The physical running style is slowly disappearing, as coaches are transitioning to more speed and shiftiness, but Beast Mode will be a nickname that will live forever.

Chuck Bednarik: Concrete Charlie

Perhaps the most vintage nickname on this list is Chuck “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik, one of the toughest, meanest and downright intense football players of all time. He played way before all of the rules protecting players we have now, back in the 50s and 60s when everything was fair game. Legend has it he got the nickname because he worked as a concrete salesman, but the argument could be made it was because of his style of playing linebacker. Hitting him was like running into a concrete wall. In fact, Bednarik hit legendary player and commentator Frank Gifford so hard that the Hall of Fame running back was knocked out cold. Whether it is because of his concrete salesman experience or his tough-as-nails linebacking days, Concrete Charlie is one of the most appropriate nicknames ever given.

Barry Sanders: Lion King

No, we are not talking about one of the greatest movies ever. We are talking about one of the greatest running backs ever. Barry Sanders is widely regarded as a top five running back of all time, revolutionizing the position with his running style. Gone were the days of the steamrolling style of Franco Harris, replaced by the jump cutting, changing direction and juking style of Sanders. He played his whole career with the Lions, and is their greatest player. He gave that city hope and is still a bright light in their football history, thus the name Lion King. The Lion King fits perfectly for the greatest player in franchise history and he will forever be in the hearts of Lions' fans along with Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, another exceptional nickname.

These are just some of my favorites. But there are so many more; take Dick "Night Train" Lane, for example. I encourage everyone to look up the origin of their favorite nicknames.