Ranking the nation's 15 most unique high school nicknames
For generations, schools have chosen generic nicknames like Wildcats and Rams
It's time to reward the 15 high schools that stepped outside the box for mascots
From Peglegs to Poets, Nimrods to Syrupmakers, these nicknames take the cake
When I covered high school sports for The Tampa Tribune, it drove me crazy when a county would spend a fortune to build a new high school and then give it a generic nickname. How many Wildcats, Knights and Rams does the world need? Why saddle the youth of America with sobriquets that only emphasize the older generation's lack of creativity? We expect our children to excel, and since that's the case, their school teams should have excellent nicknames.
The schools on this list get it. These are the top 15 high school nicknames in America. In some cases, the name draws on the town's heritage. In others, school leaders simply sought an inspiring nickname. And with apologies to Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights, those are some great names.
15. Stuyvesant Peglegs, New York
This Manhattan school is named after Peter Stuyvesant, the last director general of New Netherland. Stuyvesant was in charge when the Dutch lost what is now New York and New Jersey to the English in 1664. Stuyvesant, who lost his right leg while serving as the governor of Curacao, was nicknamed "Old Pegleg" and "Pegleg Pete." The school, founded in 1904, kept the nickname.
14. Colorado Rocky Mountain School Oysters, Carbondale, Colo.
Maybe it's the pioneer spirit, but Colorado schools have some fantastic nicknames. Brush High is home to the Beetdiggers. Lamar High has the Savages. Alamosa High has the Mean Moose, which has a better ring than the Agitated Antelopes. But nothing compares to the name of the boys soccer team at a small boarding school 170 miles west of Denver. Lots of schools have daring nicknames, but only one has the stones to call its team the Rocky Mountain Oysters.
13. Dunbar Poets, Baltimore
The school's namesake, Paul Laurence Dunbar, was a poet. Baltimore also was home to Edgar Allan Poe, who dabbled a little in verse. Dunbar's students are mighty with their pens, but they're also mighty on the football field. The Poets have won three consecutive state titles and six since 1994.
12. Don Bosco Prep Ironmen, Ramsey, N.J.
It's a bit easier to choose a nickname at schools with an all-male or all-female student body. There are no Rams-Ewes or Bulls-Cows issues. Still, the Salesians of St. Don Bosco went the extra mile, choosing a nickname that predicted the near-invincibility of the Bosco football program. Alas, Tony Stark is not an alum.
11. Lloyd Memorial Juggernauts, Erlanger, Ky.
Every year during the NCAA Tournament, somebody breaks out a Mascot Fight to the Death Pool. The idea is simple; choose the mascot that would win in a fight. Forces of nature (Miami, Tulsa or Alabama, for example) usually win. For this reason, I've always wondered why a mid-major didn't call its teams the 100-megaton Warheads. This name might be even better. A juggernaut is an unstoppable, crushing force. It would win every time. Alas, Marvel Comics supervillian Juggernaut is not a Lloyd Memorial alum.
10. Punahou School Buffanblu, Honolulu, Hawaii
Lots of schools use their uniform colors as their nickname. Plenty of Crimsons and Green Waves dot the sporting landscape. But no school combines its colors into its nickname quite like the one that produced President Barack Obama (class of '79) and America Online founder Steve Case (class of '76). The Buffanblu also get it done on the field and court. In 2008, SI editors named Punahou the nation's best high school athletic program.
9. Staples Wreckers, Westport, Conn.
A nickname that suggests what might happen to opponents is always intimidating. In the case of the Wreckers football team, which has won three state titles in seven years, it's pretty much a promise. It also doesn't hurt the school itself boasts a fantastic name. No relation, though.
8. Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits
The school that produced Billie Jean King, Willie McGinest and Snoop Dogg doesn't have an intimidating nickname, but just try catching a Jackrabbit. They're as fast as Philadelphia Eagles first-rounder Desean Jackson, another Long Beach Poly alum.
7. Watersmeet Nimrods, Watersmeet, Mich.
This Upper Peninsula public school won national fame in 2004 for its part in an ESPN advertising campaign. While most of America considers a nimrod a silly or foolish person, the folks in Watersmeet celebrate the Biblical figure Nimrod, who was described as "a mighty hunter before the lord."
6. Johnson Atom Smashers, Savannah, Ga.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research first smashed atoms with a Proton Synchrotron in November 1959. That same year, Sol C. Johnson High opened its doors. The Johnson football team's helmets feature an atom logo, and the school calls its gym the Reaction Chamber.
5. Poca Dots, Poca, W. Va.
Named by a Charleston newspaper writer in 1928, the Dots are the best marriage of school/city name and nickname in sports. The only other sports nickname that comes close is the Macon (Ga.) Whoopee, a defunct minor league hockey franchise.
4. Cary Imps, Cary, N.C.
The name is awesome, but the logo is even better. Imagine if the Great Gazoo from The Flintstones had turned demonic and started a steroid/imp growth hormone regimen that even Bill Romanowski would have considered excessive. You would let this imp call you a dumb-dumb.
3. Lakeland Dreadnaughts, Lakeland, Fla.
According to The (Lakeland) Ledger, Lakeland principal I.G. McKay praised the 1923 Lakeland football team for "rolling over the opponents just as a massive ship steams through stormy seas." That ship, McKay decided, was a Dreadnought, the British ship that revolutionized naval warfare. The current-day Dreadnaughts usually roll over their opponents, too. In 2005 and 2006, USA Today crowned Lakeland the high school national champ.
2. Glenville Tarblooders, Cleveland
Christian Bryant, a senior defensive back at Glenville who is being recruited by most of the top 25, was kind enough to explain the origin of his team's nickname a few weeks ago. Bryant said the name came from the men who built the railroad through Cleveland. The tar from the stakes would splash the men, causing them to bleed. To the untrained eye, the men appeared to bleed tar. Their namesakes have done them proud, and "sweat blood" remains the ultimate motivational creed for Glenville athletes.
1. Cairo Syrupmakers, Cairo, Ga.
The name of this tiny south Georgia town is pronounced like the syrup, not like Egypt's capital. But contrary to popular belief, Karo syrup is not produced in Cairo. The old syrup plant used to churn out Roddenberry's. Now, the Syrupmakers just churn out championship football teams. Next month, Cairo will begin its defense of the 2008 Class AAA state title.
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