The No Fun League. That’s what players and fans have taken to calling the NFL as it continues its crackdown on player celebrations. The latest target is the goal post dunk. But Commissioner Roger Goodell’s war on joy hasn’t stopped some of the game’s best from inventing their own signature celebrations, many of which become synonymous with their names. Including “Ickey” Woods, Deion Sanders and Cam Newton, here are 13 of the best signature celebrations in the NFL. Fine away, Mr. Goodell.
Deion Sanders, ‘Prime Time’
Arguably one of the best cornerbacks of all time, the Hall of Famer got in the end zone so many times after returning interceptions for touchdowns that he created his own dance. The “Prime Time” was a predecessor of the two-step, as Sanders hopped back and forth from his right foot to his left, still clutching the football. He also enjoyed high-stepping his way to a score, just to remind opponents that he was infinitely better than them.
Jamal Anderson, ‘Dirty Bird’
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Jamal Anderson, one of the most prolific running backs of the mid 1990s, also had one of the most classic touchdown celebrations. Whenever the Atlanta Falcons star entered the end zone, he busted out what he called the “dirty bird,” jutting his large arms out to the side and “flapping his wings,” like a souped-up version of the Funky Chicken. Anderson’s dance became one of the most imitated celebrations in the NFL. It might be the only thing millennials associate with the running back.
Shawn Merriman, ‘Lights Out’
The victory dance of Shawn Merriman, the former San Diego Chargers linebacker, can best be described as a convulsion, presumably releasing the insane amount of adrenaline Merriman had stored up inside his massive frame. Or perhaps it was a strange side effect of the steroids he was taking. Whatever, the result was Merriman’s “Lights Out” dance, which he performed whenever he clawed his way into the backfield.
Victor Cruz, Salsa Dance
During his journey from undrafted free agent to top tier wide receiver, Victor Cruz perfected a number of smooth moves that later made it into the mainstream. When Eli Manning wasn’t throwing interceptions, the football usually ended up in Cruz’s hands, and Cruz usually ended up in the end zone. When he got there, he tapped his Dominican roots to get his salsa on for the fans. Olé.
Chad Johnson, a.k.a. Chad Ochocinco, Body of Work
There was a time, before his affinity for entertainment overtook his play on the field, when Chad Johnson was a really good wide receiver—and an even better study in the art of celebration. Fans tuned in to Bengals games on Sundays just to see what Johnson would do when he reached the end zone. Sometimes he did a River Dance. Sometimes he proposed to a cheerleader. Other times he donned a jacket that announced he was headed to the Hall of Fame. Whatever was going on in his zany brain, Johnson made the NFL a better place for a couple of seasons. We miss you, Chad.
Alvin Harper’s Goal Post Dunk
Before Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham imitated him and made it hip (and illegal), Alvin Harper of the Dallas Cowboys was sprinkling the gridiron with the most exciting action element of the game of basketball. The OG of the goal post dunk, Harper was throwing down slams with the football before Gonzalez was drafted, and when Graham was sitting at home eating cereal and watching Saturday morning cartoons.
Denver Broncos, Mile High Salute
Popularized by Broncos running back Terrell Davis during the mid-90s, Denver’s military-inspired touchdown celebration was subtle but powerful. Sometimes you don’t need to backflip into the end zone or do the Nae Nae. Sometimes all you need to do is salute your quarterback—like “Hey man, that was a great pass. Really great! You’re the best.”
Mark Gastineau’s Insane Sack Dance
The first guy to let the world know how ecstatic he was after notching a sack was Mark Gastineau. In 1984, The New York Jets defensive end set the record for most sacks in a season (22), a mark that stood for almost two decades, until Michael Strahan surpassed it. After each sack, Gastineau’s body completely spazzed out, like a dog whose owner just yelled “bacon!” It was truly a sight to behold.
Arian Foster’s Bow
If you follow Houston Texans running back Arian Foster on Twitter, you know he’s a pretty philosophical, introspective dude. So it should come as no surprise that the former Tennessee Vol’s go-to move in the end zone is a quick bow. To his opponents, it says, “yes, I just scored on you for the third time today, but I still respect you.”
Elbert ‘Ickey’ Woods, ‘The Ickey Shuffle’
One of the most iconic touchdown dances in the history of the NFL also has one of the best names. Woods’s “Ickey Shuffle” will long be remembered as one of the most joyful and funky celebrations—simply because you’d never think a gigantic man could have such smooth moves. Here’s to you, Ickey.
Rob Gronkowski’s Spike Variations
Few things are better in life than watching New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski spike the football into the ground as hard as he possibly can. It gets even better when he puts an uncoordinated dance move in front of it. Remember the time Gronk pretended he was in the Nutcracker? Or when he gyrated his hips like an extra in Magic Mike. Never grow up, Rob.
Cam Newton is Superman
Regardless of your feelings about the Carolina Panthers young quarterback, you have to admit that his touchdown celebration is pretty cool. Pretending to rip off an imaginary suit to reveal a Superman costume beneath, sans phone booth, Newton has taken his superhero moniker to the next level by adding these cleats to the celebration.
Colin Kaepernick’s Biceps Kiss
When your biceps as large as Colin Kaepernick’s, flexing for the crowd and giving them a goodnight kiss is a legit touchdown celebration. Seriously, though. His biceps are like three times the size of a normal human’s head.