10 Best College Football Nicknames of All Time

Tom GuthrieContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2013

10 Best College Football Nicknames of All Time

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    Johnny Manziel, a.k.a. "Johnny Football," may have a great nickname, but is it the best in college football history?

    Manziel's moniker is catchy and appropriate, but we're talking about elite territory here. College football has seen quite a few great labels for great players, from "Prime Time" to "All Day."

    Let's see how the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner stacks up in this category. Here are the 10 best college football nicknames of all time. The criteria considered when compiling and ranking the entries were the following (not in any specific order):

    Catchiness of nickname

    Talent and accomplishments of the player

    Endurance of the nickname 

    Appropriateness of the nickname (capturing the player's style and/or personality) 

    Historical diversity

    (Note: Wikipedia was used in some cases for statistical and/or background information.)

Honorable Mention

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    Brian Bosworth: "The Boz"

    The standout Oklahoma linebacker was a pop culture icon before fizzling in the NFL.

     

    Jevon Kearse: "The Freak"

    The defensive end was an All-American at Florida before playing for the Titans and Eagles in the NFL.

     

    Carnell "Cadillac" Williams 

    Williams rushed for 3,831 yards and 45 touchdowns at Auburn before playing for the Buccaneers and Rams as a pro. 

No. 10: The Eraser

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    So-called because of his ability to "erase" defensive mistakes, Reggie Nelson was an integral part of the Florida's 2006-07 national championship team.

    The free safety was a consensus All-American that season and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award, given to the nation's best defensive back. Nelson was the leader of a talented Gator defense that stuffed Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.

    The Eraser skipped his senior season to take his talents to the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected him with the 21st overall pick.

    Nelson was traded to the Bengals in 2010, and he has played for Cincinnati since. 

No. 9: Rodney "Boss" Bailey

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    Say it out loud. It's nearly impossible to ignore the utter coolness of the name "Boss Bailey." 

    The brother of former Georgia Bulldog Champ Bailey earned his menacing nickname at UGA. He was a three-year starter at linebacker and an All-American in 2002, his senior season. 

    Bailey led the Bulldogs with 114 tackles that season. He also logged six sacks and was a semifinalist for the Lombardi and Butkus awards, given to the best college football lineman or linebacker. 

    Georgia also won the SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl that season, thanks in part to its defensive star. 

    Boss Bailey went on to play five seasons in the NFL for the Detroit Lions. He also played with his brother for the Denver Broncos from 2008-2011. 

No. 8: Raghib "Rocket" Ismail

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    "Rocket" may sound like exaggeration, but those who watched Raghib Ismail torment defenses will say otherwise. 

    The Notre Dame wideout and kick returner was a two-time All-American and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1990. 

    Ismail was a key player on the Fighting Irish's 1988 national championship squad. Although he only tallied 764 total yards and six touchdowns, his versatility and blazing speed made one of the Golden Domers' most valuable weapons.

    The dual-threat playmaker continued to showcase his talents in 1989 and 1990, tallying 3,351 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning punts and kicks.

    Ismail parlayed his success at Notre Dame into a brief stint in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts. He went on to play in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys before retiring after the 2001 season. 

No. 7: The Kansas Comet

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    Before he was a standout tailback for the Chicago Bears, Gale Sayers was a prolific playmaker for the Kansas Jayhawks in the early 1960s.  

    The Wichita, Kan., native was a two-time All-American at KU. He tallied 3,917 all-purpose yards in his college career, shredding defenses with his speed and agility. 

    Sayers continued to dazzle as a do-it-all tailback for the Chicago Bears. He scored a record 22 touchdowns his rookie season and led the league in rushing his second year.

    Although injuries forced an early retirement in 1972, he became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. With 9,345 combined yards and five Pro Bowl selections, he is considered one of the best backs in NFL history.  

No. 6: The Elmira Express

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    Ernie Davis broke tackles and the color barrier as a standout Syracuse tailback from 1958-61. 

    The tailback from Elmira, N.Y., apparently earned his nickname from a journalist after Davis's performance against the University of Pittsburgh. 

    After leading the Orangemen to the 1959 National Championship, Davis became the first African-American ever to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961. 

    The stud tailback received a congratulatory telegram from President John F. Kennedy lauding him for his accomplishments and admiring him as a role model. 

    The talented tailback set another record when the Washington Redskins selected him with the first pick in the 1962 NFL draft. Washington subsequently traded him to the Cleveland Browns and fellow Syracuse alum Jim Brown.  

    But Davis never played as a pro. Tragically, he died of leukemia at 23 years old in 1963.

    Ernie Davis died far too young, but his legacy lives on. 

No. 5: Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside

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    It's hard to imagine trying to defend a backfield with two Heisman Trophy winners. 

    Felix "Doc" Blanchard and Glenn Davis were an incredible duo at tailback for the Army Cadets from 1944-46. Davis, "Mr. Outside," was known as a speedy halfback. Blanchard, meanwhile, was the bruising fullback.

    Mr. Inside won the Heisman in 1945; Davis had to settle for runner-up. After all, he would win the award himself in 1946.

    The two combined for 98 career touchdowns. They also led Army to two national championships and a 27-0-1 record.

No. 4: All Day

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    General football fans may refer to him simply as "AP," but Oklahoma fans will always know Adrian Peterson by the initials "AD." 

    So the story goes, Peterson had the nickname as a boy. His father started referring to him as "All Day" because of his boundless energy.

    Adrian has lived up to his name, all right. 

    As a freshman tailback at Oklahoma, the 18-year-old ran for a freshman-record 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns. He narrowly missed becoming the first freshman Heisman Trophy winner in history. 

    Although he saw limited action his sophomore and junior seasons, Peterson continued to wow college football fans. 

    He finished his Sooner career as the third all-time rusher with 4,057 total rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns. 

    Despite questions about his durability, Peterson has established himself as arguably the best tailback in the NFL. His 2,097 rushing yards this season, after suffering a torn ACL last December, are a testament to his determination and sheer talent. 

No. 3: Johnny Football

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    It may be a generic nickname, but who is more deserving?

    Johnny Manziel is nothing if not a football player. The nickname originated at some point in the 2012-13 season, and its aptness has grown over time.

    The Texas A&M redshirt freshman was truly electrifying this season. He baffled defenses, throwing and running for a combined 5,116 yards and 47 touchdowns. 

    National champion Alabama couldn't even contain the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel's sheer ability to make plays powered his team to a thrilling 29-24 victory in Tuscaloosa.

    The best display of Johnny Football's talents didn't occur until the Cotton Bowl. He humiliated No. 11 Oklahoma, totaling a combined 516 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-13 rout

    The magic has only begun for the freshman. It's scary to consider what he could accomplish with potentially three more seasons at Texas A&M. 

No. 2: The Playmaker

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    Before he became one of the all-time greats in the NFL, Michael Irvin shined at the University of Miami.

    The wideout, who evidently came up with the nickname "The Playmaker" himself, dazzled in his three seasons in Coral Gables. He talked the talk and walked the walk.

    Irvin set school records with 143 career catches for 2,423 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was a centerpiece of the 1987 national championship team and a star for a program drenched in talent. 

    It's hard to think about "The U" without thinking of Michael Irvin. His charisma and talent coalesced into a unique creation.

    The Playmaker went on to become a perennial star for the Dallas Cowboys. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and the 1992 MVP. More importantly, he was a part of three Super Bowl teams.  

No. 1: Prime Time

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    When Deion Sanders was playing, you knew you were in for a treat. 

    Prime Time has to be considered one of the best all-around athletes of all time. At Florida State, he supplemented his star football status with baseball and track. 

    "Neon Deion" was a standout football player for Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles. He was a two-time consensus All-American selection at cornerback as well as a dangerous punt returner with amazing speed and a beautiful running style.

    Sanders won the Thorpe Award in 1988 and finished his FSU career with 14 interceptions and 1,429 punt return yards. The 'Noles elected to retire his jersey. 

    Prime Time then took his talents to both the NFL and the MLB. He went on to earn eight Pro Bowl selections and two Super Bowls before being inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.