Dallas Cowboys

NFL celebrations bring out the joy of seasons past and present

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s latest maneuver is just a jump in the bucket of memorable NFL touchdown celebrations.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s latest maneuver is just a jump in the bucket of memorable NFL touchdown celebrations. Star-Telegram

Homer Jones, a native Texan, invented the spike in 1965. He had seen New York Giants teammates Frank Gifford and Alex Webster celebrate touchdowns a year earlier by throwing the ball in the stands. But NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle made that illegal in the off-season, imposing a $50 fine.

So when Jones scored his first touchdown as a rookie, he instead slammed the ball into the ground. The spike became a “thing” until the first end zone dance.

That came on Oct. 24, 1971, when another native Texan, rookie Elmo Wright, celebrated a touchdown in a Kansas City Chiefs’ game against the Washington Redskins.

The NFL has tempered celebrations with rules changes many times since.

After touchdown celebrations got out of hand in the early 2000s, the NFL introduced a tougher excess celebration rule in 2006. It forbid the use of props and choreographed group celebrations, and penalized players for leaving their feet aside from falling to their knees in prayer.

The rules have led many to refer to the NFL as the No Fun League.

Ezekiel Elliott earned a 15-yard penalty Sunday for his leap into the Salvation Army kettle to celebrate a 2-yard touchdown run. But the Dallas Cowboys running back earned a spot in the league’s all-time most memorable celebrations.

Here are some memorable touchdown celebrations used by individual players and teams, plus a few honorable mentions, some of which earned fines from the league:

Individual celebrations

Funky Chicken Billy White Shoes Johnson scored 35 career touchdowns and memorably celebrated every one. He started his “Funky Chicken” dance his rookie season of 1974 with the Houston Oilers. The name of his dance move was based on the song Do the Funky Chicken from soul singer Rufus Thomas.

Ickey Shuffle Ickey Woods’ famous dance moves were recreated in a recent Geico commercial. The Cincinnati Bengals fullback began the movement by shuffling his feet, finishing with three hops and then spiking the ball. This craze began in his 1988 rookie season when the Bengals shuffled all the way to the Super Bowl.

Deion’s High Step Dance No one celebrated touchdowns with more style than Deion Sanders as he high-stepped into the end zone.

The Dunk Tony Gonzalez retired just in time. The NFL outlawed the former basketball player’s goal-post dunk in 2014.

California Quake Cowboys receiver Butch Johnson celebrated touchdowns by simulating pulling guns out of a holster and shaking his body.

Team celebrations

Lambeau Leap Safety LeRoy Butler was the first to jump into the stands at Lambeau Field. He did it after he scored on a lateral from Reggie White, who had recovered a fumble, on Dec. 26, 1993, against the Los Angeles Raiders.

Fun Bunch The skill players for the Redskins began a group high-five in the end zone during a 1982 playoff game against the Lions. By early 1984, the NFL had put a lid on such “overly demonstrative acts by players.”

Dirty Bird It became the signature move of the 1998 Atlanta Falcons, the franchise’s only Super Bowl team. Running back Jamal Anderson is credited as the first to flap his arms like wings, but tight end O.J. Santiago popularized it. All of Atlanta caught “Dirty Bird” fever that season.

Bob ’N Weave The St. Louis Rams, known as the Greatest Show on Turf, celebrated touchdowns with a group of several offensive players gathered in a circle in the end zone. They bent over, pumped their arms and shouted, “Gotta Go to Work.” The NFL began fining players $2,500 for every “Bob” in 2000, and the Rams earned thousands in fines.

Mile-High Salute: Terrell Davis began a Denver tradition during his playing days with a military-style salute after reaching the end zone.

Honorable mention

Phone Home After the second of his four touchdowns against the Giants in a 2003 game, New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn pulled out a cell phone hidden in the padding of the goal post. He pretended to call his mom, earning a 15-yard penalty and a $30,000 fine.

Autographed Ball Playing for the San Francisco 49ers in a Monday night game against the Seahawks in 2002, Terrell Owens caught a 37-yard TD pass then pulled out a Sharpie stashed in his sock and autographed the ball. He handed it to his agent, who was sitting in the end zone seats. The league fined Owens $5,000.

Mooning Randy Moss pretended to pull down his pants and moon the crowd after a 34-yard touchdown catch iced a Minnesota Vikings’ victory at Lambeau Field. Fox announcer Joe Buck called it a “disgusting act,” and the league fined Moon $10,000. Asked how he would pay the fine, Moon famously said “straight cash, homey.”

Pompons Owens celebrated a playoff touchdown against the Packers by borrowing a 49ers cheerleader’s pompons. The NFL did not fine him.

Goal-post slide After a 71-yard punt return against the Indianapolis Colts last season, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown intentionally charged into the goalpost and slid down it, fortunately not injuring himself. He was penalized 15 yards and fined $11,576.

The Haymaker Philadelphia Eagles returner Vai Sikahema, a former amateur boxer, began giving the Giants’ goal-post padding the old one-two after scoring on an 87-yard punt return in 1992. Ken Norton and others copied Sikahema’s one-time celebratory move.

Love Boat Then-Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith mocked the Vikings’ 2005 Love Boat scandal, an alleged sex party involving 17 players, by sitting in the end zone and pretending to row a boat.

The Proposal Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, known for creative celebrations, ran to a cheerleader and proposed after scoring against the Colts in 2005. Johnson was fined so much in his career, that after one touchdown he donned a sign that read: Dear NFL, Please don’t fine me AGAIN!!!!!! Chad Johnson. P.S. Merry Christmas.

Get Your Popcorn Ready Owens’ slogan in Dallas was, “Get your popcorn ready.” He celebrated a touchdown against the Packers in 2007 by pouring a fan’s box of popcorn through his facemask.

The (Real) Star After Owens, then with the 49ers, celebrated a touchdown by running to the star at midfield at Texas Stadium in 2000 game, Emmitt Smith retaliated by running to midfield and defiantly planting the ball in the star. The 49ers suspended Owens for one game, and he earned a $24,294 fine.

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