“Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often have you seen a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?”–Jim Boutan
I don’t know if baseball players are smarter than football players. But I do know that, in recent years, football players certainly have had a leg up on baseball players in one respect: funny names. One need only look at the previous two editions of Funniest Name in the NFL Draft to realize this. Not only were the 2013 poll winner Barkevious Mingo, 2014 poll winner Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and 2014 runner-up Jadaveon Clowney over the top funnynames, but all three of them were high first round picks. Clowney was actually last year’s overall number one.
But this brings us to a dilemma. It is well known that, in any professional sport, some years produce deep draft crops, some not so much so. I don’t know about athletic talent, but this year’s funny name draft class is just not as over-the-top all-star as the past two years. And the likely first round is totally devoid of candidates. That said, the field is wide open and full of lower round candidates whose names look like an explosion in a Lithuanian newsprint factory. Be careful pronouncing some of these, your tongue and lips might cramp.
Without further ado, here are this year’s nominees, peppered with quotes that prove that Yogi Berra has nothing on the pundits of pigskin.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Oregon State–He was mostly overshadowed by cross state rival Oregon’s offense, better known for the passing and scrambling of QB Marcus Mariota–but Ajayi is one of the top running backs in this year’s field and a likely second round pick. Note that if you drop the vowels at the beginning and end of his last name, he could give perennial Minor League Baseball Moniker Madness also-ran Jose Jose a run for his money as best repetitive name in sports. Anyway, I don’t know if he’ll win the funny name poll, but he has the funniest hair, hands down. Likely draft position: 2nd round.
“Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”–Joe Theismann
Obum Gwacham, Defenseive End, Oregon State–What’s worse than being a running back overshadowed by a cross state team known for prolific passing-based offense? Being a defender on either taeam. But while Gwachum will likely go in the late rounds of this year’s draft, he’s my early even money favorite to win the funny named poll. He was born in Nigeria, and considering he’s not the only one of his countrymen in the running, maybe there was an explosion in a Nigerian Scrabble® factory. By the way, his name, in the native tongue, means “son of god.” If he can walk on wet Astroturf, I wouldn’t bet against him. Likely draft position: round 6 or 7.
“People say I’ll be drafted in the first round–maybe higher.”–Craig Heyward
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Defensive End, UCLA–The second of three Nigerians in the field, I don’t recommend trying to say this name too quickly. You could hyperventilate and pass out. Hey, I just nominate them, I don’t pronounce them. I pity the TV commentators who will have to do so. Maybe they will just call him “O O” and they could even give him a double zero Jersey number, like Jim Otto. Likely draft position: 2nd round.
“I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first.”–George Rogers
Hroniss Grasu–Center, Oregon–First things first. That’s three candidates so far from Oregon, and all of the first four from the Pac-12. Grasu might be a center, but the country is clearly off-center in funny-named players this year. For geographical origin diversity, Grasu is of Romanian decent. His parents emigrated from Romania to Los Angeles in 1982 and opened Greco’s Roman Pizza on Hollywood Boulevard, which is still in business today. Romanian New York pizza? Only in L.A. Likely draft position: round 3.
“I have two secret weapons: my legs, my arms and my brain.”–Michael Vick
Ali Marpet–Center, Hobart College–While we’re going for geographical diversity, let’s also throw in ethnic and academic variety as well. As an economics major at Division III Hobart, Marpet seemed more likely headed to Wall Street than the NFL. Then the scouts noticed him and the rest, as they say, will soon be history. Marpet was named to the Jewish Sports Review’s 2013 All-America Team. Likely draft position: 2nd or 3rd round.
“If defensive linemen’s I.Q.’s were five points lower, they’d be geraniums.”–Russ Francis
Xzavier Dickson–Outside Linebacker, Alabama–It’s hard not to include any Xaviers in any funny name accounting. Dickson is borderline to even be picked in the draft at all this year, but hey, we had two Xavier’s in last year’s poll–I just had to continue the tradition. But that spelling: Xzavier!!? No, that’s not a typo–well, not here, but maybe on his birth certificate. I just couldn’t resist including this one–though maybe he’s more suited for The Blog of Oddly Spelled Names. Likely draft posit: Round 7, or undrafted free agent.
That does it for the ballot nominees. Among the also-rans eligible for write-in are Jaquiski Tartt, SS, Samford; Jeremiah Poutasi, OG, Utah; Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (another Oregon player of Nigerian descent!); Deiontrez Mount, OLB, Louisville; and Kaleb Eulls, DT, Mississippi State.
Perhaps it’s not as rich a crowd as in the previous two years, but they are still worthy of note. The draft begins tomorrow night, but our voting opens now. The balloting closes at noon EDT, one week from today–results will be reported in next weeks Funny Names in the News. Vote as often as you like, but don’t forget the words of Joseph Stalin: “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” Mwah-ha-ha.
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