All-Name Team: Best monikers in the 2014 recruiting class
Here at the Sports Illustrated Institute for Gridiron Nomenclature, we study all the important name trends. Unfortunately, some of those trends have the director of SIIGN feeling pretty old. From 2010 to '13, 26 players named Shaquille or Shaq signed to play football with FBS schools. Ten of those signed in '11, which makes sense because National Signing Day came a little less than 19 years after the Orlando Magic made Shaquille O'Neal the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NBA draft.
That was an important moment in the life of this young director, who lived in the Orlando suburbs at the time. When one's high school and college memories begin to show up in the names of people entering college, it means a significant amount of time has passed. That's why one particular player from the class of 2014 has the director feeling positively ancient. Many of you will probably feel the same way when you meet future Ohio State Buckeye Raekwon McMillan.
McMillan is a 6-foot-3, 245-pound linebacker from Liberty County High in Hinesville, Ga. And unless he has a great-great-great-uncle Raekwon somewhere in the McMillan family genealogy, there is a high likelihood that the top-rated linebacker in this year's recruiting class was named after a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. For those too old or too young to appreciate the reference, the Wu is a collective of rappers that emerged in 1993 from Staten Island -- they called it Shaolin, and who were we to argue? -- with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). For a lot of 30- and 40-somethings, Raekwon, Method Man, RZA, GZA, ODB and the rest helped provide the soundtrack for early adulthood. Who knows? They may have inspired more parents. So when Inspectah Deck Smith signs in the class of 2016, don't be surprised.
McMillan will captain the defense of the class of 2014 All-Name Team, joining such stalwarts as defensive lineman Godspower Offor (Wake Forest) and linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (Auburn). Meanwhile, Georgia-bound Sony Michel, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 13 recruit in the nation, will lead the offense. Michel, a tailback from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., is believed to be the first top prospect to share a name with a consumer electronics company. He probably won't have company for a while. Apple Martin, the daughter of Coldplay singer Chris Martin and actress Gwyneth Paltrow, hasn't even reached high school and will probably never play football. Also, she might be named after a fruit and not the computer company.
The SIIGN struggled to choose a winner in the 2014 team rankings. After all, Nebraska received a commitment from Freedom Akinmoladun, a 6-4, 240-pound tight end from Grandview, Mo. When did Akinmoladun offer that verbal commitment? On July 4, 2013, of course. The Cornhuskers also have a commitment from Highland, Ill., offensive lineman Tanner Farmer. Assuming Farmer signs with Nebraska next week, he will represent the finest marriage of name and school since safety Wave Ryder signed with Navy in '11.
Boise State also made a push in the team rankings. Earlier this month, the Broncos received a commitment from Salt Lake City offensive lineman Tennessee Su'esu'e, who won't write plays but will run them. In December, Boise State got a pledge from Hesperia, Calif., offensive lineman Troy Bacon, whose last name is the thing all offensive linemen love the most. Had Michigan recruited young Troy, the Wolverines could have had (Jabrill) Peppers playing alongside Bacon. Instead, Ann Arbor residents will have to settle for getting their pepper bacon fix at Zingerman's. The Broncos might have taken the team title had Milpitas, Calif., tailback Squally Canada not flipped to Washington State. In Pullman, Canada joins Hawaiian defensive end Hercules Mata'afa. Those two names nearly put coach Mike Leach's Cougars atop the team rankings.
But the best name-based recruiting was done by Bobby Petrino before he bolted Western Kentucky to return to Louisville. In December, Petrino secured the signatures of two All-Name all-stars. Cornerback Wonderful Terry has transferred in from Garden City (Kan.) Community College. The FBS has been without a player named Wonderful since Buffalo dismissed linebacker Wonderful Terrific Monds II in 2012, and that is far too long. Meanwhile, 310-pound defensive tackle Ge'Monee Brown will join the Hilltoppers from Pearl River Community College in Mississippi. Rare is the defensive lineman whose name provides the soundtrack to his post-sack dance.
An honorable mention goes to reigning national champion Florida State, which has the most festively named recruiting class. After all, the Seminoles expect to sign a (defensive tackle Demarcus) Christmas and a (wide receiver Travis) Rudolph. Florida State also has an excellent instance of name-position synergy in Saluda, S.C., defensive tackle Dexter Wideman. Of course, the finest marriages of name and position remain linebacker Michael Stonebreaker at Notre Dame in 1986 and defensive end Dee Liner at Alabama in 2013. But if we're including nicknames, Texas A&M receiver commit Devante "Speedy" Noil is high on that list.
Nicknames are a sensitive topic here at SIIGN, but truly great ones deserve recognition. That's why we can't wait to get started breaking down future classes for the next set of All-Name Teams. In the class of 2016, there is a quarterback from Hollywood, Fla., named Buckshot Calvert. His birth certificate says Stephen, but he answers to Buckshot. That's good enough for us. We can't wait until he signs to play alongside Ghostface Johnson.