Picking New Nicknames for College Football's 8 Top Stars

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2013

Picking New Nicknames for College Football's 8 Top Stars

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    One of the great sidebars in sports is nicknames, and when you start talking college football and monikers, something magical is bound to happen.

    Yes, while it’s one thing to give tennis players or golfers the perfect nickname, it’s another thing entirely to rename a guy who lines up as a menacing defensive end, elusive receiver or fearless quarterback.

    And with inspiration from the college game’s rich history which includes such gems as RGIII, the Tyler Rose, Honey Badger, the Kansas Comet, the Grey Ghost, the Boz, Rocket, the Comet, the Elmira Express, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside and Prime Time, it’s difficult to not want to give it a whirl.

    The following slideshow does just that and assigns new nicknames for eight of college football’s top stars coming into 2013.

    Even though these bold attempts to label this season’s stars might seem to fall short on the surface, who knows, maybe fate will intervene and declare that one of these humble tags is the stuff that legends is made of.

    And, then again, maybe not so much.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

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    Current Nickname:  The Tajh Mahal of Football

    New Nickname:  The Veiled Tajh Mahal of Football

    Though Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is one of the guys on our list who doesn’t “officially” carry a nickname, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney did come up with the “Tajh Mahal” concept.

    Yes, according to a post on TigerNet.com from November of 2012 which included a tweet from after Swinney appeared on SirusXM College, the coach thought his star QB deserved a catchy nickname as good as Johnny Manziel’s “Johnny Football” and Collin Klein’s “Optimus Klein.”

    In attempt to one up Swinney, we’re going with an advanced version of what he came up with for Boyd’s nickname.

    First things first, Dabo’s masterful use of the “Tajh Mahal of Football” was stellar, but as good as it certainly is, it leaves out a key element.

    Indeed, when you think of the actual Taj Mahal you think of an edifice that stands out as one of the great achievements in architectural history, but, when you think of Tajh Boyd the QB you conjure up something a bit different.

    Yes, from a national perspective Boyd is well respected but since he plays at Clemson, in the ACC, he gets nowhere near the love and hype he would if he put up 10-win seasons and serious stats at, say, Auburn, USC, Texas or even South Carolina.

    So, this leads us to the “Tajh Mahal of Football” being more of a covert, underground operation or a “veiled” affair.

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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    Current Nickname:  Teddy Ballgame

    New Nickname:  Teddy Bridge-to-Pasadena

    Another gunslinger with an unofficial nickname—or one that hasn’t properly caught on—every once in a while you hear somebody refer to Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater as “Teddy Ballgame” or “Teddy Football.”

    At least for the 2013 campaign, we boldly propose that Bridgewater be nicknamed “Teddy Bridge-to-Pasadena” in honor of his skill set and maturity rising just in time to coincide with Louisville’s final year in the Big East (now American) conference.

    Yes, all that stands between old “Bridge-to-Pasadena” and his Cardinals and the BCS national title game slated for Jan. 6, 2014 in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif. (via perfection) are a series of games that look, well, winnable.

    Especially when you stack them up with any schedule from the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten and even the ACC.

    Here’s the lineup: vs. Ohio, vs. FCS Eastern Kentucky, at Kentucky, vs. FIU, at Temple, vs. Rutgers, vs. UCF, at USF, at UConn, vs. Houston, vs. Memphis and at Cincinnati.

    Teddy Bridge-to-Pasadena.

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

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    Current Nickname:  Unknown 

    New Nickname:  The Sheik of Freak

    It’s somewhat of a surprise that South Carolina’s super-stud DE Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t picked up an official nickname yet, but we’ll try our best here by tagging him as the “Sheik of Freak.”

    Yes, the “Sheik of Freak” goes a long way in describing the guy whose on-field performances more often than not leave us with our mouths agape, allowing the drool that only awe can bring to drip liberally to the floor.

    So often you read about Clowney and the descriptive word people use is “freak” as in the guy is so good, so powerful, so elusive, so instinctive that well, he’s a freak.

    The Sheik of Freak.

    As a point of reference, there was indeed another “freak” nickname used in college football, for Florida’s Jevon Kearse who was referred to as “The Freak” as a Gator from 1995 to 1998.

    Though you could argue that Clowney could do better than “The Sheik of Freak” since it’s already been used, let’s remember that the use of word “Sheik” means that he is the patriarch of a family or tribe, a chief of sorts.

    So, if you will, Clowney, in his athletic excellence, is the leader or the grand poohbah of all the freaks.

Marqise Lee, USC

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    Current Nickname:  Unknown

    New Nickname:  Marqise de Speed

    Another rising star who ought to manage a stellar moniker if he keeps up the good work as an upperclassman, incoming junior WR Marqise Lee looks destined for great things.

    Indeed, and whether USC coach Lane Kiffin makes the grade, Lee has the type of speed and skills to make him a sensation both for the remainder of his collegiate career and in the future as a pro.

    For Lee’s nickname we’ll go with the “Marqise of Speed” which pays tribute to his breakneck velocity and could foreshadow his place in the history of Trojan football.

    Indeed, in as much as the famous Frenchman the Marquis de Lafayette came to General George Washington’s aide in the American Revolution, the Marqise of Speed may come to General Lane Kiffin’s aid in the USC football revolution.

    And, even if the Marqise doesn’t manage to be the key lug nut in Kiffin’s charge at evil forces of the Pac-12, perhaps he will stick around for the new commander’s regime at Troy in 2014.

    May I present his lordship, the Marqise de Speed.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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    Current Nickname:  Johnny Football

    New Nickname:   867-5309

    Well, it’s tough to improve on the copyrighted nickname of “Johnny Football,” especially with Aggie QB Johnny Manziel becoming the first freshman Heisman winner in history, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try.

    Yes, how about “867-5309” which is more aptly stated “8675-309” and is a famous number from a song of the same name recorded by Tommy Tutone back in 1982.

    The alternate title to the song is Jenny and the premise of the piece is all about how the guy singing the song has gladly got Jenny’s phone number.

    I got it, I got it, I got it!

    I got your number on the wall!

    I got it, I got it, I got it!

    For a good time, for a good time call…


    Johnny (or Jenny), don’t change your number.

    I need to make you mine.

    Johnny. I’ll call your number,

    8-6-7-5-3-0-9 (8-6-7-5-3-0-9)

    8-6-7-5-3-0-9 (8-6-7-5-3-0-9)

    So, Jenny is Johnny and as far as what the “number” is all about, well, that’s what the SEC defenses of 2013 have that they didn’t have in 2012.

    Yes, 867-5309 is Johnny’s number and after shocking the world last season with an unlisted number, caller ID is all hooked up and ready to go in 2013.

    867-5309, we got it, they got it and they’re waiting for your call, Johnny.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

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    Current Nickname:  Super Mariota

    New Nickname:  Koloa Maoli

    Though the nickname “Super Mariota” is a solid tag for Oregon’s super-stud QB Marcus Mariota, we’ll try a little one-upmanship with “Koloa Maoli.”

    Yes, Mariota is indeed the super kid who took the BCS ranks by storm as a freshman in 2012, finishing the season ranked No. 7 nationally in passer rating, but why not give this guy more than just another cartoon-character nickname?

    “Koloa Maoli” is the native Hawaiian name for a duck indigenous to the islands of Hawaii and since Marcus Mariota is also a duck native to Hawaii—voilà!—we have suitable moniker.

    Another fascinating parallel is the fact that the Hawaiian duck carries an endangered status.

    This element of scarcity could also be applied to finding incoming sophomore QBs who have just led their squads to BCS bowl wins with completion percentages over 68, TD pass totals over 30, INT totals under seven and rushing yards over 750.

    Both the tropical island mallard and the young gunslinger with the specific stat resume are a difficult species to come by indeed.

    Koloa Maoli.

A.J. McCarron, Alabama

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    Current Nickname:  Unknown

    New Nickname:  A-Mac

    Alabama’s QB A.J. McCarron did get tagged “A.J. Mc Carin” after his weepy break down following the Tide’s dramatic win over LSU in 2012, but that’s just not a proper, long-term nickname.

    So, we’ll go with “A-Mac” and we’ll do so for a few good reasons.

    First, it’s a solid, big-time sports moniker, and if you’re thinking it pays homage to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (or the “other” A-Rod, well, sort of), then you’re exactly right.

    But, before you start thinking that this is some sort of second-to-last slide cop out, there is more than meets the eye to dubbing McCarron A-Mac.

    To get the ball rolling, A-Mac and A-Rod (the football one) both share the very enviable trait of being ultra-careful with the ball in terms of interceptions vs. total passing attempts.

    How careful have they been?

    Well, A-Rod ranks No. 1 all-time in NFL career pass interception percentage with 1.7 from 2005-2012 while A-Mac has thrown only eight career INTs in 690 attempts at Alabama giving him a similar percentage of 1.2.

    Next, as collegians both guys are considered “system” guys, and as A-Rod has had to break into his NFL career by proving his individual skills as a QB, A-Mac will likely have a similar path ahead in the pros.

    Yes, playing at Cal is completely different than playing at Alabama, but when you think about from a “systems” approach, there are similarities.

    Where Cal’s offense was considered a system that pumped out gross stats regardless of who was under center (making A-Rod’s personal contributions look nominal), Alabama’s total team is so talented it makes any skill position look less individually gifted (making A-Mac look less shiny).

    But, now that A-Rod has three Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl ring, a Super Bowl MVP award and eight top-tier seasons in the NFL, we know he is way more than a “system guy.”

    In the same way we’ll have to wait and see what A-Mac can do in the NFL, but until then don’t forget that the kid with the girlfriend and the huge chest tattoo was the No. 1-rated passer in the entire FBS in 2012.


Braxton Miller, Ohio State

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    Current Nickname:  XBRAX360

    New Nickname:  The Big O

    A nickname with three compelling angles in which to amuse and entertain party guests and casual observers with, we tag Ohio State’s Braxton Miller as “The Big O.”

    First, and most obviously, Braxton Miller plays for the biggest O in the land, or THE Ohio State University where there Scarlet “O” rules a state obsessed with one brand of football…the kind with striped nuts on the box.

    Yes, pay no mind to the seven “other” (note the small “o” used in that word) FBS schools in Ohio, it’s all about the Big “O” in Ohio State.

    Next, you’ve got the recycled use of a nickname used for another “Big O,” one Oscar Robertson who led the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA championship in 1970-71.

    Other than leading Milwaukee to its only tour of Promised Land, Robertson was voted an All-Star a whopping 12 times and was the only guy in history to average a triple-double for an entire NBA season.

    And, if you’re looking for an Ohio connection, Robertson played college hoops at Cincinnati from 1957 to 1960.

    Lastly, Miller is THE Big O, named after the other Big O, at the Big O because well, he is the Buckeyes' main source of O, or, offense.


    Well, to paint a clearer picture, Millers’ combined 3,310 yards of total offense last season means that he was personally responsible for a staggering 65 percent of Ohio State’s 5,085 total team yard output last season.

    That puts his contributions on par with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who contributed 70 percent of the Aggies' total yards in 2012.

    Braxton Miller, the new Big O.