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The greatest NFL nickname of all-time belongs to Walter Payton

There was never really any doubt, but it’s still neat to see a national publication sing the praises of Sweetness.

Chicago Bears Walter Payton... Set Number: X32279

A recent article from the USA Today’s Touchdown Wire lists their 101 greatest nicknames in football history, and as you’d expect, the Chicago Bears were well represented. But before we get down to the nitty-gritty and check which Bears players made the cut, let’s take a look at a few that didn’t make it.

They had two Bears make their honorable mention list, Devin “Anytime” Hester and Anthony “A-Train” Thomas, but I always liked Windy City Flyer nickname much better for Hester.

Some other nicknames that I always liked were the “Ultraback” Raymont Harris, James “Robocop” Thornton, Dennis “Pinky” Gentry, James “Big Cat” Williams, “Mad Mac” was Jim McMahon, and Tarik Cohen has a couple, but “Chicken Salad” is my fav.

Out guy Jeff Berckes Tweeted out several Chicago Hall of Famers that didn’t make the 101 but are worth mentioning.

  • Bill Hewitt - The Offside Kid
  • Mike Singletary - Samurai Mike
  • “Bronko” Nagurski
  • Clyde “Bulldog” Turner
  • Ed Sprinkle - The Claw
  • George Trafton - The Brute
  • George “Moose” Musso
  • George “Moose” Connor
  • Dan “Danimal” Hampton
  • Richard “Sackman” Dent

And now on to the Bears mentioned by the Touchdown Wire.

89. Iron Mike Ditka

Chicago Bears vs New York Giants, 1963 NFL Championship Set Number: X9728 TK1 R10 F9

Mike Ditka acquired the “Iron Mike” nickname from the fact that he grew up in the steel town of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. It also could be said that the Hall of Fame tight end ruled his Chicago Bears teams, including the Super Bowl XX champions, with an iron fist. One of the greatest players to hail from the Pittsburgh area, Ditka went to five Pro Bowls as a player and compiled a 121-95 record in 14 seasons as coach of the Bears and New Orleans Saints.

It’s a shame that Ditka’s Chicago coaching career fizzled out and he went on to be a bit of a caricature of himself, because Ditka the player was incredible. Some fans don’t appreciate all that he was back then because of how he’s been. He he managed to snag just one more Super Bowl as Chicago head coach I think his legacy would be looked back on more fondly.

Before we move on to the rest of the Bears on their list, I wanted to point out that current Bear, but longtime Bengal Andy Dalton, cracked their top 101 at number 73 for his “Red Rifle” moniker.

40. Gale Sayers - The Kansas Comet

Gale Sayers Running for 96-Yard Touchdown

Gale Sayers became known as the Kansas Comet while earning All-America accolades at the University of Kansas in the 1960s. Any doubts about whether his speed would translate to the next level were erased when he scored 20 touchdowns, including six in one game, as a rookie with the Chicago Bears. Sayers was named first-team All-Pro in each of his first five NFL seasons, leading the league in rushing yards twice during that span. Unfortunately, his playing career was cut short by a severe knee injury suffered in 1970. Nevertheless, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Imagine if Sayers would have gone to the University of Iowa like he originally intended. The Iowan Comet doesn’t have the same rig to it.

38. Steve “Mongo” McMichael

Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Steve McMichael was dubbed “Mongo” by Chicago Bears teammate Dan Hampton in homage to the fearsome, oafish character of the same name from the 1974 comedy movie “Blazing Saddles.” Presumably, McMichael never punched out a horse, as his film namesake once did. But he did go on to a pro wrestling career after returning from the NFL. McMichael recorded 95 sacks, 17 fumble recoveries and 13 forced fumbles in 15 pro seasons with the Bears, Patriots and Packers.

Speaking of Mongo’s WCW run, he was a member of the famed Four Horsemen with legendary Ric Flair, and he even held the United States Heavyweight Championship for a bit.

33. Charles “Peanut” Tillman

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Longtime Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was dubbed “Peanut” as a baby by an aunt who thought he resembled one. NFL opponents found him less adorable, evidenced by his 38 interceptions and eight pick-sixes over his 13-year career with the Bears and Carolina Panthers. Interestingly, Tillman went on to a career as an FBI agent after retiring from the NFL.

In case you missed it, we had Charles Tillman Appreciation Day here at WCG a few weeks ago, and you can catch up on everything in this story stream right here.

31. George “Papa Bear” Halas

Chicago Bears Coach Halas On Sideline

George Stanley Halas stands as one of the forefathers of the NFL and the godfather of the Chicago Bears franchise. He was involved in the league from its beginnings in 1920 until his death in 1983. In addition to founding the Bears, Halas also played, coached and served as an executive for the team. He ranks second only to Don Shula in NFL history with 318 regular-season victories. To this day, the Bears wear the initials GSW on the left arm of their uniform jersey in honor of Halas.

Halas stepped away from coaching the Bears on three separate occasions, and during those combined eight seasons the Bears won 55 regular season games and went 2-1 in NFL Championship games.

23. Red Grange - The Galloping Ghost

Grange & Zeller At Practice Photo by Alan Fisher/World-Telegram Photo/PhotoQuest/Getty Images

Red Grange was one of the first true football superstars, a player who single-handedly could deliver huge crowds. The Chicago Bears convinced the University of Illinois standout to turn professional at a time when college football was much more popular than the pro game. It’s said that Grange acquired his nickname because of his “ghostlike speed and elusiveness.” He scored 33 touchdowns in three college seasons for the Fighting Illini. Grange would play nine pro seasons — seven with the Bears and two with the erstwhile New York Yankees football club. He was part of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

My favorite Grange anecdote also involves Papa Bear, and it’s a story told by ESPN’s Chris Berman.

“I was interviewing George Halas and I asked him who is the greatest running back he ever saw. He said, ‘That would be Red Grange.’ And I asked him if Grange was playing today, how many yards do you think he’d gain. And he said, ‘About 750, maybe 800 yards.’ And I said, ‘Well, 800 yards is just okay.’ He sat up in his chair and he said, ‘Son, you must remember one thing. Red Grange is 75 years old.’” ~ Chris Berman on ESPN Classic’s SportsCentury series

There were a couple more Chicago-ish players on the list;

Craig “Ironhead” Heyward checked in at 20, and Bears fans may remember his brief time in Chicago (1993) got video gamers a fun fullback to use in Tecmo Bowl.

The Bears starting quarterback in 2003 made the list at number 10, but Kordell “Slash” Stewart was more known for his time with the Steelers.

And now back to the legendary Bears.

6. William Perry - The Refrigerator

Chicago Bears William Perry Set Number: X32489

It was during freshman year at Clemson University that defensive tackle William Perry first became known as the Refrigerator. Tigers teammate Ray Brown came up with the nickname, which eventually would become synonymous with Perry. “We were standing in the elevator in the dorm and he nearly took up the whole elevator,” Brown later said. “That’s when I gave him the nickname.” After a standout career at Clemson, he was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears. Perry exploded on the national scene as a rookie in 1985, scoring three touchdowns in goal-line situations en route to Super Bowl XX. He then memorably scored on a 1-yard plunge as the Bears steamrolled the Patriots in the big game. Perry went on to play 10 NFL seasons with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Fridge took the nation by storm his rookie year with the Bears, but his teammates had another nickname for him thanks to Dan Hampton. The Danimal called Perry “Biscuit” because he was one biscuit shy of weighing 350 pounds.

1. Walter Payton - Sweetness

Walter Payton, Chicago Bears On Monday Night Football Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

It’s not entirely clear how the great Walter Payton came by his famous nickname, although it’s believed to date to his college days at Jackson State. But then, what’s a legendary nickname without a little mystery? Payton was one of the most gifted players in football history, a running back who seamlessly blended aggression and finesse on the field. The Chicago Bears icon retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher after the 1987 season, and his total of 16,726 rushing yards still ranks second in league history. Payton, who led the NFL in carries for consecutive seasons from 1976-79, was selected to nine Pro Bowls and named first-team All-Pro five times. He was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1993.

Without question, Sweetness is the greatest football player I’ve ever seen play.

What do you think about this list of Bears’ nicknames? Are thee any others you’ve liked through the years?