What's In a Name? My Top Five In College Football History

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIJuly 1, 2009

22 Jan 1984:  Quarterback Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins passes the ball during Super Bowl XVIII against the Los Angeles Raiders at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  The Raiders won the game, 38-9. Mandatory Credit: Allsport  /Allsport

What’s in a name? 

Ask the teammates and the opponents of these five college football players. Their birth monikers may have vaulted them to glory. 

I’m rather sure others have written a B/R article on this subject, but here goes my take anyway. 

Here are my top five names in college football history.


5. Joe Theismann, quarterback, Notre Dame 1968–1970 

Everyone knows this story.  The banner was hung by a fellow Irish player “Theisman for Heisman.” 

The pronunciation was changed. Joe came in second to Stanford’s Jim Plunkett. 

Nice try.


4. James Jett, wideout, West Virginia 1989–1992 

James Jett was a world-class sprinter. He helped the United States’ 4x100 meter relay team to gold. He beat Carl Lewis in the ’92 US Olympic trials. 

However, Don Nehlen, the West Virginia head coach who recruited Jett, always described him as a football player who happened to run track.


3. AJ Hawk, linebacker, Ohio State 2002–2005

He ranks only third in my list, but AJ’s has to be the coolest name. 

In the 2005 game against Texas at the Horseshoe, Hawk swooped down on Vince Young so hard all night the Longhorn QB collapsed on the sidelines in the fourth quarter. 

He was so brutal with the long, flowing locks that AJ possibly ranks right up there near Archie Griffin as one of the most beloved Buckeyes.


2. Dick Butkus, linebacker, Illinois 1962-1964

It shouldn’t be surprising to you that the top three names belong to linebackers. 

Dick Butkus is the standard for which all linebackers in college as well as the NFL are compared. When you have a football player whose ultimate wish is to hit a running back and see his head roll on the turf, well…how can you argue with the name Butkus? 

Answer: Don’t even try.


1. Mike Stonebreaker, linebacker, LB Notre Dame 1985–1988 

Enough said. But, I’ll say two things.

He is such a badass that Stonebreaker was at the tip of the spear during the pre-game brawl with Miami in 1988.

Mike could probably be credited with single-handedly winning the 1989 Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship against West Virginia. 

On the third play of the game, he laid a wicked, vicious hit on Mountaineer Major Harris that separated the elusive quarterback’s shoulder, rendering him ineffective and solidifying the Irish’s 34–21 victory.

I welcome comments.