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Browns Browns Archive Cleveland Sports Vault: Cleveland Browns Nickname Quiz – With Actual Fan Comments!
Written by Greg Popelka

Greg Popelka

EddieJohnsonTime keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future. And here we find ourselves, having been thrust headlong into the end of November. This must mean:

a)   The holiday decorations at work currently feature an epic battle between black Halloween bats and smiling white snowmen.

b)   For the Popelka clan, it is the season of apple cider and powdered donuts. Mmmm.

c)   For Cleveland Browns followers (and to paraphrase Paul Brown), in the near term, their hopes for future are in their past. It’s time to focus on next year’s college draft.

d)   All of the above.

That question was a gimme. And now that you are warmed up, you are ready for today’s Browns nickname quiz!

Many of these are well known, but some are fairly obscure. I took some liberties with a few of them, but I think most of these are fair to include. I avoided the most obvious re-worked names and initials, such as “MoMass”, “Diek”, “PB”, and “KJ”. 

By the way, I believe team titles and Hall of Fame players aren’t the only gauges in measuring the depth and breadth of a sports franchise. I would be surprised if many other NFL teams boast of as many nicknames as the Browns.

(Here is a fun exercise: before you get started, look away, and first try to name as many as you can. I came up with an internet-assisted 32. This number is a very obvious hint for number 33 below.)

1.  Turkey

2.  The Toe

3.  The Albino Rhino

4.  Ice Cube

5.  Man-Genius

6.  Glue Fingers

7.  Automatic

8.  Bubba

9.  Thriller

10. KII

11. The Deuce

12. Bad Moon

13. Pork Chop

14 .T-Bone

15. Foghorne

16. Wizard of Oz

17. Wizard of Boz

18. Big Daddy

19. Mad Dog

20. The Assassin

21. Top Dawg

22. E-Rock

23. Flex

24. Touchdown

25 .Pepper

26. Three Mile

27. Route 66

28. Curly

29. The Professor

30. Big Money

31. Webstar

32. The Baabarian

turkey jones steeler killer33. Bonus: Who said he didn’t want a nickname- that nicknames were for “sissies”?

It’s interesting how many of the nicknames come from the rosters of playoff teams. Seems like a great way for a player to endear himself to fans. 

1.         Turkey     One fourth of what Doug Dieken has called “the best defensive line in Cleveland Browns history” (along with Jerry Sherk, Walter Johnson and Jack Gregory). Joe Jones famously ignited the home crowd by bear-hugging Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and spiking him as the Browns eked out an 18-16 win. This was in 1976- Turkey Jones’ second stint in Cleveland after playing some in Philadelphia.

In a small tradition that Art Modell stole from the Browns when he moved the team due to mismanagement and selfishness, vets sent rookies out to pick up “free turkeys” ahead of Thanksgiving every year. It was a trick, as the rookies spent a portion of their off-day searching for a mythical rural location. Some would drive up and down the highway, perhaps stopping at a farm to call and verify the address. Turkey Jones received his nickname for falling for the prank.

lou groz runningFan Comment: “Turkey Jones did not acquire his nickname as a rookie. The name was bestowed upon him in his SECOND season; he fell for it twice!”

2.         The Toe     Local fans would agree: Lou Groza would be featured on a Cleveland Browns “Mount Rushmore.” He was the stalwart left tackle of coach Paul Brown’s heyday, and his ability in kicking field goals and extra points made him the standard-bearer in that realm as well.

As with so many of the old Browns, though, the popular Groza was a Brown for life. Lou “The Toe” remained a visible ambassador for the team and the city. He died in 2000, but not before helping to demand, and then observe, the return of the NFL to Cleveland after Art Modell moved the original Browns.

Fan Comment: “The Browns’ ‘Mount Rushmore’ would feature… Groza, Otto Graham, Jim Brown, and… I’ll go with Bernie, for the popularity factor.”

3.         The Albino Rhino     In 2010, Browns running back Peyton Hillis was a breakout star. Acquired after the 2009 season for quarterback Brady Quinn, he began receiving playing time when Jerome Harrison and James Davis suffered injuries. He ended up with 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. The next peyton hillisspring, he was voted the winner of the 2011 Madden cover.

That was the high-water mark for Hillis. 2011 saw his production slowed by injury, and his strange antics alienated his teammates. While fans were told there were more details than were made public, we did learn that he:

-           Flew to Arkansas to get married on a game-week Tuesday rather than have his injured hamstring receive treatment.

-           Was notably late for at least one team meeting, and missed a charity obligation.

-           Removed himself from the lineup after contract negotiations with president Mike Holmgren broke down- citing strep throat.

-           Practiced throwing long passes during pre-game warmups in front of teammates in San Francisco, while out with a sore hamstring.

The Browns had had enough. By November, they made it clear they would not seek to re-sign Hillis for 2012. He backed up Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs for a season, and has latched on with the Giants in 2013.

gerald mcneilFan comment: “Wow, I just learned there are multiple meanings for the term, ‘Albino Rhino.’”

4.         Ice Cube     Drafted in 1984 out of Baylor University by the Houston Gamblers of the NFL-rival USFL, Gerald McNeil was taken by the Browns in the 1984 Supplemental Draft of CFL and USFL Players. He was an exciting punt and kickoff returner during the Kosar era, and played a little wide receiver too.

Fan comment: “They’re not saying “boo”, they’re saying ‘CUUUUUUUBE.’”

5.         Man-Genius     After the 2008 season, Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel were finally fired by owner eric manginiRandy Lerner. Lerner heard of Eric Mangini’s availability (he had just been let go by the New York Jets), and almost before his next breath, he made the Bill Belichick protege the new Browns coach (the actual time lapse was nine days- including the New Year’s holiday).

The word on the Browns locker room under Mangini was that he beat them down with micro-management. He clearly was not the answer. When Holmgren was brought in by Lerner (in a rush that was reminiscent of his Mangini hire), he delayed the inevitable by retaining the coach for his first year as team president.

Fan Comment: “Clearly, Mangini’s nickname was not ‘earned’ in Cleveland. He was awful. We referred to him in another, less polite manner. It was another twist on his surname.”

dante lavelli dressed as a Baron6.         Gluefingers     Dante Lavelli was one of Paul Brown’s original core guys. QB Otto Graham, FB Marion Motley, WR Mac Speedie, and Gluefingers. Throughout his life, Brown raved at the strength of Lavelli’s hands. He seldom lost in a battle with the defense over a Graham pass. Like Groza and several other Browns players, he was an Ohio boy who’d been a Buckeye, then a Cleveland Brown for life.

Fan Comment: “I am getting a lot of blowback on the Mount Rushmore thing. OK, Kosar is out; Lavelli is in.”

Otto Graham20077.         Automatic     Automatic Otto was the man to lead Paul Brown’s vertical offense in that first, great, championship Cleveland Browns era. PB’s Ohio State Buckeyes had encountered Graham when the latter quarterbacked Northwestern in the early 1940s. After a short stint in WWII, Graham played for a professional basketball team for one season before Paul Brown signed him in 1946.

Fan Comment: “For all the notoriety PB got for micro-managing, Graham actually bucked his boss and called a play or two on his own. Notably, in the historic 1950 NFL championship game won by the former AAFC champion Browns. (Against star Bob Waterfield and the Rams of Los Angeles- nee al bubba baker2Cleveland, in what writer Andrew Clayman called ‘perhaps the greatest game ever played in Cleveland, Ohio’). Graham was that good- and his deviation from the coach’s call worked. That helped, too.”

8.         Bubba     Al “Bubba” Baker joined the Browns later in his career (in what was then an unofficial stat, he recorded 23 sacks as a rookie for the Detroit Lions- and no, that is not a typo). He only played in Cleveland for a few seasons, but makes his home there, and is regarded fondly by fans. His barbecue joint (Bubba’s-Q) will soon be featured on TV.

Fan Comment: “Does anybody really call him “Bubba”? OK, to his face they do. But in the third person, it’s never “Bubba”, or “Baker”, or “Al”. How weird does “Al Baker” sound? No, it’s always “Al ‘Bubba’ Baker.”

9.         Thriller     A target of Brett Favre’s back at Southern Miss, Michael Jackson was a nice find in the sixth round of the draft for the Browns. He was a weapon on the early 1990s Bill Belichick teams. He played with Baltimore after the move, for a short time.

Fan Comment: “I think he kept the nickname for the few weeks there when he changed his last name to “Dyson”. As I recall, the kellen winslowname change was a gesture that was meant to honor a family member. He was way before Chad Johnson, with the name change thing. Also, he started out as #1. Then, the NFL mandated number ranges by position so he changed his number, to (to 81).”

10.       KII     Butch Davis, the Browns head coach in 2004, had recruited Kellen Winslow II to the University of Miami. Butch looooved Big East players, especially the ones he recruited. So of course, that meant he absolutely needed to trade a second round pick to the Detroit Lions in order to move up one spot in the first round, from the seventh pick to the sixth (this was the draft in which Miami University quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fell all the way down to the Pittsburgh Steelers at number 11).

Winslow’s career with the Browns was marked by immaturity and injury. A stunt motorcycle accident in a parking lot virtually defined his time in Cleveland. He was a fierce competitor, however, and when on the field, his pass-catching ability made him a solid NFL weapon.

Fan Comment: “The Ohio State Buckeyes faced a trio of future Cleveland Browns in that 2003 NCAA Championship Game: RB Willis McGahee, QB Ken tim couch throwDorsey, and KII.”

11.       The Deuce     The quarterback, Number 2, of the 1999 expansion Cleveland Browns. Tim Couch played in Cleveland through 2003, becoming battered and bruised leading and offense that had no real weapons and a subpar offensive line.

Fan Comment: “Has it really been ten seasons since Couch was here? Wow. My thing with him was he was not a bust. A lot of people claim he was. Couch was on an awful team. He had no running attack. He helped lead the andre risonBrowns to the playoffs in 2002. He beat Pittsburgh a few times. His career completion percentage was 60%, and his career passer rating was 75. He is not knocking on the door in Canton, but a bust? No.”

12.       Bad Moon     Andre Rison was emblematic of the bad vibes surrounding the Browns in 1995. Art Modell, whom as we learned could not afford such luxuries, had signed the receiver to a large contract. That season, Rison had one of the worst years of his career. He and booing Browns fans clashed, and then the team was gone.

Fan Comment: You hate to give Chris “Look at Me” Berman any attention. It would only encourage him. But “Bad floyd womackMoon” Rison’s nickname came from Berman. It was a reference to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s son, “Bad Moon Rising.”

13.       Pork Chop     The Browns signed free agent guard Floyd Womack in 2009, after he’d helped anchor the right side of the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line going back to 2001. He played in Cleveland for two seasons.

Fan Comment:           “Mmm, I’m getting hungry. Who’s next?”

14.       T-Bone     The Browns hit the jackpot in 1988, with Tony Jones. The left tackle had gone undrafted out of Western tony jonesCarolina, and became a fixture in the latter years of the original Browns. He was on the team when they moved, playing one season in Baltimore. He was a Pro Bowler in Denver in 1997. He earned his nickname in college: the team ate steak every Wednesday, and he stole from the younger players.

Fan Comment: “Well, there was Groza, Schafrath, Dieken and Joe Thomas. A very rich history of left tackles in Cleveland. Insert T-Bone Jones after Diek and before Thomas. The only reason his legacy here wasn’t longer is because the team was moved.”

15.       Foghorne     Reggie Langhorne’s nickname came from the cartoon rooster, of course. The receiver out of Bethune-Cookman was the opposite bookend of Webster Slaughter. The Browns may not have protected Bernie Kosar from debilitating collisions, but they did arm him with a potent arsenal of weapons. Once Bill Belichick arrived on the scene, Langhorne was one of the veterans he ran off. 

Fan Comment: “Ugh, another Berman nickname. But what a great one. As an Indianapolis Colt, Langhorne rifled the football along the turf, directly at Belichick, ozzie newsomeafter catching a pass in a game against the Browns. I’d love to know what he was yelling at him.”

16.       Wizard of Oz     Ozzie Newsome’s rookie season with the Browns was in 1978. This was also the rookie season of another Hall of Famer- baseball’s Ozzie Smith. The St. Louis shortstop always seemed to get more attention as “The Wizard of Oz” than our guy, but hey- the Cardinals won it all. Ozzie Newsome was a favorite target of Brian Sipe’s, and later, of Bernie Kosar’s. He set receiving records as he helped revolutionize the tight end position along with Kellen Winslow Sr. of the San Diego Chargers.

Fan Comment: “Does Ozzie really have a game photo of himself on his Baltimore office wall, with his Browns uni photoshopped out in favor of Ravens gear?”

17.       Wizard of Boz     This one might be my favorite nickname. Keith Bosley was a replacement player during the 1987 strike games. He was huuuge. He didn’t really look like an athlete. At that time, fans fashioned a lot of signs out of bed sheets, and displayed them at the stadium. One paid homage to the Wizard of Boz.

Fan Comment: “I remember those games- went to one. The Browns kind of ‘cheated’ in that one, since WR Brian Brennan and QB Gary Danielson crossed the picket line in Cincinnati to ensure the win. During an earlier ‘scab’ game, TV announcers Bob Trumpy and Don Criqui sat there and made fun of Bosley, whose size made his shoulder pads and uniform number appear small.”

18.       Big Daddy     Former Eagles defensive lineman Carl “Big Daddy” Hairston was part of the veteran core of head coach Marty Schottenheimer’s late 1980s contenders. I just learned his 20+-year coaching career currently has him with Canada’s BC Lions.

Fan Comment: “Baseball may ‘own’ the whole nickname thing, but I don’t recall any of their players being known as Big Daddy. Of course, there are several Big mike junkinDaddys sprinkled through the all-time rosters of NFL teams. Pittsburgh even had one, although it happened to prior to 1970 so they don’t know about him.”

19.       Mad Dog     Not a nickname, per se. In 1987, Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer publicized scout Dom Anile’s description of Duke linebacker Mike Junkin: a ‘mad dog in a meat market.’ Anile later lamented that he did utter that phrase- but never touted Junkin as a first round pick. The top player on the board was another linebacker, Shane Conlan out of Penn State (“Linebacker U”). Conlan had a fine career with the Buffalo Bills. Junkin made it obvious in training camp that he was not an NFL player. He intercepted a pass in an exhibition game, but Coach Marty admitted he was out of position.

eddie johnson IIFan Comment: “If only Chip Banks had his head on straight- what a talent. But when the Browns shipped him off, they needed a linebacker. Marty had nobody with the authority to veto him. I find it amusing that when Junkin was finally let go by the Browns, he did briefly catch on with an NFL team: the Kansas City Chiefs, who’d just hired the man the Browns had recently fired: Marty Schottenheimer.”

20.       The Assassin     Eddie Johnson was a fan favorite. He was a ten-year player with the Browns of the 1980s. He started some, and settled into a role as a goal-line run stuffer. He died a young man, in 2003 from colon cancer.

Fan Comment: “Johnson actually claimed the Cleveland Dawg Pound barking thing was from his years growing up in Georgia, following the Bulldogs. I don’t think anyone bought it, and anyway, he attended the University of Louisville. But hanford dixonthat didn’t take anything away from how we felt about the guy.”

21.       Top Dawg     One half of what calls the “Number 2 cornerback tandem in NFL history.” He was the one to start the whole “Dawg Pound” thing.

Fan Comment: “The only reason he and Minnifield are not considered the best tandem is because they never played in a Super Bowl. They should have- Marty dropped almost the entire defense into a soft, prevent scheme against John Elway. The lack of quarterback pressure certainly resulted in “The Drive”, forcing the Browns to stay home that year.”

Eric Turner22.       E-Rock     Eric Turner was a star safety whom had been compared to fellow UCLA Bruin, and Cleveland Brown, safety Don Rogers. The Browns selected Turner with the second overall pick in 1991. He was a star on the team, pre-move. Turner died at age 31, in 2000, from intestinal cancer.

Fan Comment: “I think his was the first of the “-Rock” nicknames. Others followed, such as the Bengals’ David Fulcher (“Ful-Rock”).

23.       Flex     Felix Wright was signed out of the Canadian Football League by the Browns in 1985. His best years were alongside cornerbacks Dixon and Minniefield.

Fan Comment: “His signature tackle was the highlight you sometimes see of him upending Bills receiver Don Beebe, who tommy vardelllands on his head. Wright wasn’t Don Rogers, the all-world safety who died in 1986. But he was a reason that D was good.”

24.       Touchdown     Stanford fullback Tommy Vardell was the top draft pick of Bill Belichick in 1992. Cardinal head coach Denny Green had given him his nickname. Unfortunately, Vardell did not score touchdowns in the NFL at the same pace he did in college. After a couple seasons, injuries took their toll and his career wound down in the late ‘90s.

pepper johnsonFan Comment: “In baseball, if you are known as ‘Tommy’, it’s no big deal. I imagine that would be less true in football. But ‘Touchdown Tommy”? No wonder he got razzed by the team. I called him ‘Jelly Neck.’ He looked like his big helmet jiggled a little, even when he walked.”

25.       Pepper     Buckeye fans recalled Pepper Johnson from the linebacker’s days patrolling Ohio Stadium. He’d been a star on the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants teams of the ‘80s. Then-assistant Bill Belichick brought him to the lakefront when the former became coach of the Browns. He helped stabilize the Cleveland defense for three seasons, pre-move.

Fan Comment: “Yeah, he was good. Although I didn’t appreciate it when he told us Browns fans that he was going to lyle alzadobring some of the Giants spirit to Cleveland- like he was going to teach us how to be pumped up or something.”

lyle alzado muhammad ali26.       Three Mile     One of the top defensive linemen in football, from 1971 to 1985. He played for coach Sam Rutigliano in Cleveland from 1979 to 1981 (the Kardiac Kids era). He was known as “Three Mile Lyle” due to his volatile personality (it was a reference to the nuclear meltdown near Hershey, PA). It was said others seldom knew what to expect from Alzado- it often seemed he had a split personality. At times he was warm and friendly, and other times angry and violent. (You had to love any guy who sparred with Muhammad Ali, though.)

Fan Comment: “He died of brain cancer in 1992. He blamed the illness on his steroid use. Some contend steroids may not have been the cause- who is to know for sure?”

27.       Route 66     Gene Hickerson paved the ‘road’ ahead of the likes of Hall of  Fame running backs Jim Brown, Bobby gene hickersonMitchell, and Leroy Kelly. He missed two games in 1962, and that was it, over a career that spanned from 1957 to 1973.

Fan Comment: “Another lifelong Brown. It took forever for him to be elected to the Hall of Fame in Canton (2007), but when he was inducted, Brown, Mitchell and Kelly stood with him. Alzheimers was taking its toll on him, but it was still very moving.”

curly morrison28.       Curly     Fred Morrison was a Buckeye running back in the late 1940s. The Bears drafted him with the Number 10 pick in 1950. After four seasons, Paul Brown traded for him. He basically helped bridge the gap between the eras of Marion Motley (which ended after 1953) and Jim Brown (which began in 1957).

Fan Comment: “Fred freakin’ ‘Curly’ Morrison. The man who caught wind that the Cleveland Browns were for sale in 1961. Morrison was working for CBS as an ad salesman, calling on the Akron rubber companies.

As Dan Coughlin relates in his book, Pass the Nuts: When in the area, Morrison always stopped by The Theatrical restaurant and bar in downtown Cleveland. Morrison was told that while the current Browns ownership group was happy with their investment, they were now looking to free up cash. They had an offer on the table: $2million.

Morrison knew a secret that even NFL owners did not know. He knew that CBS and the NFL were about to sign a new deal. It would net each team about $1million.

He told the Browns’ owners that he could get them a buyer who would pay $3million. They agreed to let him broker a deal. He was given thirty days. His finder’s fee would be 10%.

frank ryan Jim brownWith one week to go before the deadline, up stepped 35 year old New York ad executive Art Modell. He borrowed the max that banks would approve, lined up minority investors, and bought the Cleveland Browns for $4million. Each Browns fan can fill in the rest of the story with his own experience.”

29.       The Professor     Frank Ryan was a math professor at Case Institute of Technology, while he was playing for the Browns. He led the team to the 1964 NFL Championship.

Fan Comment: “In telling the tale of the Cleveland Browns’ Frank Ryan, writer Dan Wismar does the best job I’ve seen.

30.       Big Money     Gerard Warren was selected third overall in the 2001 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. He gerard warrenwas selected ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson, Richard Seymour, Santana Moss, Steve Hutchinson, Casey Hampton, Reggie Wayne, and other Pro – Bowlers.

Fan Comment: “Well, ‘Big Money’ never made the Pro Bowl. He did, however, have a long career- longer than I expected when he was manning the defensive line in Cleveland. When he was here, I was among those who just rolled their eyes at yet another overrated Butch Davis pick. It didn’t help that he got busted for carrying a firearm illegallu during his Browns years. He was the player team president Carmen Policy told reporters police claimed was ‘one of the nicest guys they ever arrested.’ “

31.       Webstar     Bernie Kosar’s best receiver, and one of the best receivers in Cleveland Browns history. Selected in the second round out of San Diego State University in 1986, on the recommendation of all-time great Paul Warfield.  Sent away as a veteran by Bill Belichick in 1992.

Fan Comment: “This is very close to our rule of avoiding re-working last names. My wife and I had a brush with Webster Slaughter once. It was in 1989. Coach webster slaughter langhorneMarty was gone, but the team was still competitive. Bernie Kosar had just led the Browns to a thrilling Monday Night win over the contending Bears, highlighted by a 98-yard touchdown pass up the left sideline into the Dawg Pound. Kosar and Slaughter were usually on the same page, and they each knew what was coming as they lined up for the play. Once Webstar grabbed the bomb, it appeared the safety would knock him out of bounds. After a pirouette and some tight-rope stepping, he coasted to the end zone. The old stadium’s electricity gauge was pegged.

After the game, we milled about outside of the player exit. Small groups began popping out, and fans cheered. Head Coach Bud Carson appeared, and his broad smile was startling- previously, I’d only seen his serious stare.

All of a sudden, we found ourselves standing in a small circle with Webster Slaughter. Like many others, he was in no hurry. So what did I say? “Hi, Mr. Slaughter.” He greeted me back.

Ugh. “Mr. Slaughter?” I’d froze. (frozen?) When I face palmed myself, I hope it wasn’t in front of him. Because, of course, he still remembers and everything.”

32.       The Baabarian     A late round pick by the Browns at the end of the Brian Sipe era in 1982, Mike Baab was a fixture in Bernie Kosar’s offense. In 1988, mike baab card look down lineMarty Schottenheimer tried to replace him with 1987 second-rounder Gregg Rakoczy; he traded Baab to New England during camp in 1988. The timing was troubling, and the shock to the offense seemed unnecessary. Baab was brought back to the Browns in 1990, and he gave that team a shot in the arm. Rakoczy left the Browns in 1990- landing with New England, as well. Mike Baab’s second stint with the Browns ended after 1991. He played one more year, in Kansas City- under Coach Marty.

Fan Comment: “How did he get his nickname? It’s from this video, which has been variously described as ‘bizarre’ and ‘awesome.’ Both descriptions seem fair.”            

33.       Bonus: Who said he didn’t want a nickname- that nicknames were for “sissies”?

I read where Jim Brown (below, with Browns fan Elvis) was known as “First Down Jim Brown.” I never heard that before. I seem to recollect that he rejected nicknames. That fits with his personality, although I could not actually corroborate the statement.

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