The Rams have a rich history, dating back to their origins as the Cleveland Rams in 1936. In their 79 years of existence, the Rams have produced an illustrious group of all-time great players. The team - and its players - are also recognized as having some of the greatest nicknames in sports history. Let's take a trip down memory lane...
Best Nicknames In Rams History
The accompanying chart presents the most prominent and enduring nicknames in the history of the Rams. The list includes twelve individual player nicknames, the teams' nickname and two nicknames related to specific team units.
Player/Team/Unit Nickname Years St. Louis/L.A./Cleve. Rams 1936-Present Defensive Line Fearsome Foursome 1963-1971 Offense Greatest Show On Turf 1999-2001 Elroy Hirsch Crazy Legs 1949-1957 Dick Lane Night Train 1952-1953 Jack Reynolds Hacksaw 1970-1980 David Jones Deacon 1961-1971 Torry Holt Big Game 1999-2008 Norm Van Brocklin Dutchman 1949-1957 Jim Everett Blade 1986-1993 Jerome Bettis Bus 1993-1995 Paul Younger Tank 1949-1957 James Laurinaitis Little Animal 2009-Present Willie Anderson Flipper 1988-1994 Carnell Williams Cadillac 2011
Origins Of Rams Nicknames
James Laurinaitis (Little Animal)
A seldom-used nickname; however, one with deep and famous family roots. James' father Joe Laurinaitis is better known by his ring nickname "Animal". Together with "Hawk" (Michael Hegstrand), they formed the greatest tag-team duo in the history of professional wrestling: The Road Warriors.
Dick Lane (Night Train)
In his rookie season (1952), Lane set an NFL record for interceptions in a single season (14), a record which stands to this day. Lane's nickname was given to him in his first professional season by a renowned teammate, Tom Fears, the first true wide receiver in NFL history:
"Fears was a lover of music and a great teammate. He often played music in the locker room and he had a pet name for almost everyone on the club. One of Fears’ favorite tunes was the 1952 hit "Night Train" which was recorded by Jimmy Forrest. At some point, Fears matched the song title to Lane and thus was born one of the most enduring (and phonically pleasing) nicknames in sports history."
Norm Van Brocklin (The Dutchman)
Although he was born in America, "The Dutchman" was a reverential tribute to Van Brocklin's Dutch ancestry. On September 28, 1951, Van Brocklin set a single game NFL record by throwing for 554 yards, a record that still stands (64 years and counting). Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, Van Brocklin is arguably the greatest quarterback in Rams history.
Carnell Williams (Cadillac)
Williams played only one season for the Rams (2011), but brought with him a nickname for the ages. A high school television broadcaster at Etowah High School in Attalla, Alabama gave the young Williams his nickname, comparing his style and running to that of a luxury car. Unfortunately, his career didn't befit the moniker, as it ended up more closely resembling a Chevy Impala than a Cadillac.
Jack Reynolds (Hacksaw)
Reynolds was a model of controlled aggression throughout his 11 seasons roaming the field as a MLB for the Rams. Reynolds earned his nickname during his college days with the Tennessee Volunteers:
Reynolds earned his nickname in 1969 by cutting an abandoned 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air in half with a hacksaw after his previously unbeaten University of Tennessee team returned from an embarrassing 38-0 road loss to Ole Miss.
As Reynolds noted at the time:
"I came back to school and I was very upset. I had to do something to relieve my frustration."
Torry Holt (Big Game)
An integral part of the famed Greatest Show On Turf, Holt ranks 13th on the NFL career receiving yards list (13,382 yards). A 7-time Pro Bowler and 1-time First-Team All-Pro, Holt was a Hall of Fame semi-finalist in 2015, and holds the NFL record for most consecutive seasons with 1,300 or more receiving yards (6).
Holt earned his nickname while at N.C. State, starring in some of the biggest wins in school history:
"Holt helps coach his son’s Pop Warner team, which has been a somewhat surreal experience for Capital City Steelers coach Al Leaston. Leaston went to N.C. State when Holt was a star there in the 1990s, and tries to explain to the younger players how Holt earned his "Big Game" nickname, with some of the most incredible performances in ACC history. "Those Florida State games," said Leaston, without any reason to finish."
Paul Younger (Tank)
In addition to a distinguished playing career with the Rams, Younger broke through many long-standing racial barriers. Younger played his college football at Grambling State University. A converted tackle, Younger earned his nickname while in college, a tribute to his propensity for plowing over anyone who tried to get in his way (out of the offensive backfield and as a linebacker).
Undrafted, Younger signed with the Rams as a Free Agent, becoming the first NFL player from a historically black college. Younger was also the first African American to have a meaningful role in an NFL front office (as a scout and executive with the Rams).
David Jones (Deacon)
It comes as no surprise that the flamboyant Jones is the only player on this list to have given himself a nickname. To most of the football world, the nickname "Deacon" has replaced "David" as Jones' first name. The greatest defensive lineman in NFL history, Jones was the most prominent member of the legendary Fearsome Foursome. An 8-time Pro Bowler and 5-time First-Team All-Pro, Jones was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.
One of his first acts as a Rams rookie (in 1961) was to substitute "Deacon" for his given name "David". As Jones reasoned:
"No one would remember a player named David Jones - there are a thousand David Joneses in the phone book. I picked out Deacon because it has a religious connotation and it would be remembered in the violent pro football world. When the Rams sent out my player questionnaire, I simply listed my name as Deacon Jones. From then on, that's what I was."
Also known as the "Secretary of Defense", Jones is credited with creating the term "sack", used to describe tackling the passer behind the line of scrimmage. Jones was quite descriptive with his reasoning behind coining the term:
"You take all the offensive linemen and put them in a burlap bag, and then you take a baseball bat and beat on the bag. You're sacking them, you're bagging them. And that's what you're doing with a quarterback."
"We needed a shorter term. I gave it some thought and came up with the term 'sack'. Like, you know, you sack a city - you devastate it. And the word is so short you can even get Deacon in front of Jones in some headlines."
Official sack statistics were not recorded by the NFL until 1982. Unofficially, Jones holds the NFL record for sacks in a single season (26 in 1967). Jones amassed 194 1/2 sacks in his career. If his career sack total was officially recognized, Jones would rank third on the career list (behind Bruce Smith - 200 and Reggie White - 198).
Year Sacks Team 1961 8 Los Angeles Rams 1962 12 Los Angeles Rams 1963 20 Los Angeles Rams 1964 22 Los Angeles Rams 1965 19 Los Angeles Rams 1966 18 Los Angeles Rams 1967 26 Los Angeles Rams 1968 24 Los Angeles Rams 1969 15 Los Angeles Rams 1970 12 Los Angeles Rams 1971 4 1/2 Los Angeles Rams 1972 6 San Diego Chargers 1973 5 San Diego Chargers 1974 3 Washington Redskins
Elroy Hirsch (Crazy Legs)
Hirsch was another player who earned his nickname while still in college. In 1942, Hirsch was playing for the Wisconsin Badgers in a game against the Great Lakes Naval Station. Sportswriter Francis Powers (Chicago Daily News) was covering the game, and afterwards wrote about Hirsch's unique, unusual running style: "His crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions, all at the same time. He looked like a demented duck." Hirsch was the first full-time "flanker" in NFL history and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.
Jerome Bettis (Bus)
A 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, Bettis is best remembered by Rams fans for his outstanding rookie season. He ran for 1429 yards and 7 touchdowns, earning both Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition. Bettis played his college football for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, and credits the school newspaper for coining his popular nickname.
"Bus" referred to the manner in which he ran over people (just like a bus) on his way to another rushing touchdown. The nickname was seldom used during his three seasons with the Rams. When he joined Pittsburgh, Steelers' announcer Myron Cope revived Bettis' nickname, which stuck for the remainder of his career.
Willie Anderson (Flipper)
Anderson holds the NFL record for receiving yards in a single game (336). He was given his nickname by his first baby sitter "Mama Pearl":
"She said that when my mother dropped me off, I would cry like a dolphin," Anderson said. "She started calling me Flipper. It did become my favorite (TV) show, because it was my nickname, but everyone thinks it probably happened the other way around. Now I have toy dolphins and pictures of dolphins in my room. People always give them to me."
Jim Everett (Blade)
Everett was the Rams' starting quarterback for most of his eight seasons with the team. He led the Rams to a pair of playoff wins and was invited to the Pro Bowl in 1990. Everett earned his nickname early in his rookie season. It was given to him by accomplished, veteran guard Dennis (Hercules) Harrah:
"I gave him the nickname 'Blade' about four weeks ago 'cause most of us around here got these big ol' pie faces and he's got that little thin one. But it's taken on new meaning now and it's gonna stick 'cause the boy can slice up a defense."
Everett describing how his nickname "Blade" came into being:
"It was first given to me by Dennis Harrah. A group of us Rams went hunting in Paso Robles and we happen to take a group photo with our prized pig. A while later back in the locker room, we finally received the picture and Dennis in his common but very funny West Virgina accent said: "Damn that pig is big...and look at all our bloated old pie faces of us lineman too...but wait....look at that..there that skinny damn Blade in the back (laugh...laugh...laugh). Jim, you know your a Blade cause you got that narrow head, compared to us pie faces."
The Fearsome Foursome
The nickname "Fearsome Foursome" is most closely associated with the Rams' dominant defensive line of the 1963-1971 period. Notwithstanding that fact, the Rams' defensive line was not the first to have "Fearsome Foursome" ascribed to it. The expression was first used in 1957, in a New York Daily News headline, for an article describing the New York Giants' outstanding defensive line. It was regularly used to describe the San Diego Chargers' defensive line from 1958-1961, and later used in reference to the 1962 Detroit Lions defensive line.
The Rams' defensive line during that period was arguably the best in the history of the NFL, and truly a Fearsome Foursome. Two of the members - Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen - are Hall of Famer's and rank among the greatest defensive linemen in NFL history. The other two original members - Lamar Lundy and Roosevelt Grier - were stars in their own right. Roger Brown (1967-69), Diron Talbert (1967-70), and Coy Bacon (1968-71) replaced Lundy and Grier in later years.
One could argue that the Rams' defensive lines of the 1970's were also worthy of the nickname Fearsome Foursome. In addition to Olsen, the line was comprised of Hall of Fame inductee Jack (Blood) Youngblood, 1-time Pro Bowler Fred Dryer, and 5-time Pro Bowler Larry Brooks.
The Greatest Show On Turf
"The Greatest Show On Turf" was the nickname ascribed to the St. Louis Rams' record-breaking offense during the 1999-2001 NFL seasons. The offense featured a number of all-time great Rams players: QB Kurt Warner, RB Marshall Faulk, WR Isaac (The Reverand) Bruce, WR Torry Holt and LT Orlando Pace. In 2000, the Rams' offense set an NFL record (since broken) for total offensive yards (7,335). The 1999-2001 Rams are one of only two teams (New England from 2010-2012 being the other) to have scored 500 points in three consecutive seasons. The nickname was derived from the expression "Greatest Show On Earth", a term first used by ESPN's Chris Berman (in 2000) to describe the Rams' offense:
"Forget Ringling Brothers; the Rams are the Greatest Show on Earth."
The following is perhaps the best description of those offenses I've ever read:
"Ecstasy came easily if you watched anything the 1999 Rams did that season, but the feeling that more often came across was probably pure wonder. What this team did was unlike anything that had been done in the history of the NFL. Their offensive philosophy and practice transcended the game and effectively changed how offenses were run. It was the unbelievably fortunate alchemy of the perfect coach and system meshing with the perfect cast of ultra-talented players at the perfect time. It became the Greatest Show on Turf."
The Rams trace their nickname back to college football. The Fordham Rams (an independent located in the Bronx, New York) were a powerhouse college football team from the mid-1930's to the early 1940's. They ranked no lower than 17th in the final Associated Press poll for 6 consecutive seasons (1936-1941). Fordham was Vince Lombardi's alma mater. He played for the Fordham Rams from 1933-1936.
The Rams' 5 Most Difficult Records To Break
•Turf Show TimesAll records are made to be broken. The Rams have five individual player records that may never be broken. Time for a bit of nostalgia, and a look back at records set by Eric Dickerson, Jackie Slater, Flipper Anderson, Isaac Bruce and Night Train Lane.
Damon "Buzz" Wetzel was the general manager of the Cleveland franchise owned by Homer Marshman. The franchise originated in 1936 as a member of the American Football League, and joined the NFL in 1937. Marshman and Wetzel picked the nickname "Rams" for two reasons: the Fordham Rams had always been Wetzel's favorite football team and Marshman liked the sound of the name.
The team was known as the Cleveland Rams from 1936 to 1945. In 1946 the team moved to Los Angeles, and remained the Los Angeles Rams until the end of the 1994 season. The Rams moved once again in 1995, to St. Louis. The franchise has operated as the St. Louis Rams for the past 20 years.
The Rams were the first NFL team to have a logo on their helmets. The logo incorporated and highlighted the Rams nickname by means of ram horns, painted on the teams' leather helmets for the 1948 NFL season. The horns/logo have been the club's trademark since first appearing in 1948. The Rams' helmet and logo are arguably the most recognizable in the NFL. Whether it be Cleveland, Los Angeles or St. Louis, the horns are still the horns. Hopefully it will remain that way throughout the remainder of the teams existence, no matter where they play.
1948 Rams Helmet