With most of our thoughts on the 2011 NFL draft still fairly fresh in our minds, the time seems right for my annual "Coolest Names in the Draft" column — "A" through "Z."
What makes the names cool?
Well, that's for me to decide.
It could be just the names' sound, or the funky way they roll off the tip of my tongue and challenge my somewhat suspect pronunciation skills.
Or it could be their similarities to other names that strike a chord with me, both in and out of the football world.
Don't worry, an explanation will accompany each of my selections, which, if presented in the proper fashion, might just elicit a badly needed smile or two.
The majority of articles pertaining to pro football in the coming days and weeks, I'm afraid, figure to be a great deal more somber — for reasons I don't think I have to explain.
So let's try to have a little fun, shall we?
A: Cardinals fourth-round OLB Sam Acho, Texas (103rd player selected)
Ken Whisenhunt, Acho's new head coach, immediately started having fun with his fourth-round pick's name when he indicated a strong effort was in the works to have Acho wear the number "5" so he could be called "Acho Cinco." Down the road, if Acho works out the way the Cardinals hope, perhaps his plentiful sacks will elicit "Acho! ... Acho! ... Acho, Acho All Day!!! " chants from approving fans on a regular basis. Then again, as my uncle Harry Benjamin used to say: "Aaaachh!!! What the hell are you talking about now, Danny?"
B: Bucccaneers second-round DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson (51)
Talk about a fall from grace! When the offseason started, Bowers' name was at the top of most mock drafts, including Pro Football Weekly's. But serious medical concerns ultimately caused his stock to plummet well into the second round. By the way, don't you think "Da'Quan" is a rather unique first name?
C: Bears first-round OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (29)
With apologies to Raiders fourth-round CB Chimdi Chekwa and Browns fourth-round TE Jordan Cameron — after being selected in the fourth round by Cleveland, the Browns' PR department mistakenly called Saints DE Cameron Jordan for biographical information on Cameron — my vote has to go to Carimi, who just happens to be the first Jewish Bears player since the great Sid Luckman. Don't be shocked if Carimi strikes up a fast friendship with Cubs pitcher and fellow tribe member Justin Berg.
D: Patriots second-round CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (33)
Not only is the first name "Ras-I" an interesting mouthful, but Dowling is also a very interesting selection by the Patriots, who many draft observers thought were more likely to trade the first pick in Round Two. Is Dowling another Brandon Meriweather? Hopefully, we'll find out soon enough.
E: Bears fifth-round QB Nathan Enderle, Idaho (160)
With only three players to pick from, Enderle beats out Jets third-round NT Kenrick Ellis and Packers sixth-round OLB Ricky Elmore. The initial reaction to Enderle's selection on Chicago sports-talk radio has been less than positive, as most fans would have apparently preferred that the Bears address a greater need with their fifth-round pick than quarterback.
F: Vikings sixth-round OG-C Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock (172)
Sorry, Sione Fua (Panthers third-round nose tackle). But "Brandon" is my son's first name, and every year I have to have at least one guy in my "Coolest Draft Name" column that sounds like he could have been a character in "The Sopranos." And it doesn't hurt that the dude attended Slippery Rock, either.
G: Three-way tie between Bengals first-round WR A.J. Green, Georgia (4); Packers RB Alex Green, Hawaii (96); and Broncos TE Virgil Green, Nevada (204)
It just seemed like the right thing to do, acknowledging the Green Boys — three of the 11 players in this year's draft with a last name starting with the letter "G." Who knows? A.J. just might make Carson Palmer think twice about his retirement plans. But I did briefly consider Florida International CB Anthony Gaitor (to the Buccaneers in the seventh round), who remains based in Florida.
H: Steelers first-round DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State (31)
He's the son of former NFL RB Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, who died way before his time of a recurring brain tumor. At this year's Scouting Combine, Ironhead's kid came off as a class act. Like father, like son.
I: Saints first-round RB Mark Ingram, Alabama (28)
Selected three picks before Heyward, Ingram is the son of former NFL WR Mark Ingram Sr., who is currently serving a jail sentence for bank fraud, money laundering and jumping bail. Ingram Jr.'s reaction — live on ESPN — to an email from his father after he was drafted by the Saints was easily the emotional highlight of this year's draft in this football commentator's humble opinion.
J: Falcons seventh-round OG Andrew Jackson, Fresno State (210)
Hmm! Wonder how many "Dead Presidents" will eventually be coming this kid's way? Considering my facial similarities to the late president Ulysses S. Grant having become a trademark among my longtime friends and fellow workers, I simply could not resist this selection.
K: Texans fifth-round SS Shiloh Keo, Idaho (144)
It was a close call between Keo and two more alliterate candidates — Niners second-round QB Colin Kaepernick and Titans fifth-round DT Karl Klug. Not only does Keo have a cool-sounding first name and last name, but I just thought it would be cool to pick two guys out of the University of Idaho (him and Enderle).
L: Chargers first-round DT Corey Liuget (18)
Liuget beats out Illinois teammate Mikel Leshoure, who was drafted in the second round by the Lions, and Seahawks seventh-round DE Lazarius "Pep" Livingston. Why? Because my daughter's first name is "Corey," and she lives in San Diego, and Liuget's name is pronounced like the word "legit," which the Chargers hope he turns out to be.
M: Eagles fourth-round MLB Casey Matthews, Oregon (116)
The lookalike brother of Packers third-year superstar Clay Matthews barely beats out Bengals third-round OLB-DE Dontay Moch, who has a last name that could not be more draft-oriented.
N: Panthers first-round QB Cam Newton, Auburn (1)
O: Texans seventh-round DE Cheta Ozougwu, Rice (254)
Not only is his name one of the draft's testiest tongue twisters, but he also made a name for himself as this year's "Mr. Irrelevant!"
P: Panthers fifth-round WR Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii (132)
Pilares' melodious monicker gets the nod over Dolphins first-round C Mike Pouncey, whose brother, Maurkice, turned out to be a first-round stud for the Steelers in 2010.
Q: Rams first-round DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina (14)
Even if he wasn't the only guy in this year's draft with a last name beginning with the letter "Q," Quinn would have been mighty hard not to pick. Quinn's stock just kept rising in one of the best D-end drafts in decades, despite being suspended by the NCAA his final year at North Carolina for improper association with an agent and a benign brain tumor.
R: Falcons fifth-round RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State (145)
Put simply, he had me at "Jacquizz." Ravens third-round OT Jah Reid and Vikings sixth-round FS Mistral Raymond were also in the running.
S: Packers sixth-round OG Caleb Schlauderaff, Utah (179)
I could have gone with Jaguars fourth-round WR Cecil Shorts or Patriots fifth-round TE Lee Smith, who has the same name as my all-time favorite Cubs relief pitcher. But when I told PFW editor-in-chief Keith Schleiden my idea for this column, he immediately blurted, "For S, Caleb Schlauderaff." Hey, I know where my bread is buttered. This one's for you, Chief!
T: Ravens sixth-round QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (180)
You'd think there would have been more names that would have fit this spot to a "T," but that was sadly not the case. After great deliberation, I opted for Taylor, whose last name is also the first name of my brother Hub's daughter. And, in case you didn't notice, Taylor was selected one pick after Schlauderaff.
U: None drafted
V: Raiders third-round CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami (Fla.) (81)
The first name just doesn't seem to go with the last name, which I find a bit odd. But on a team owned by Al Davis, who is undoubtedly one of the oddest birds on the planet, Van Dyke should fit in easily enough. And — at the risk of making it look like I've become increasingly punchy 22 letters into the alphabet — the "Dick Van Dyke Show" ranks right up there with the extremely underrated "Car 54 Where Are You?" as my all-time favorite TV comedy.
W: Raiders second-round C Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State (48)
He's the nephew of former Raiders great and the team's current assistant O-line coach Steve Wisniewski, one of the orneriest cusses to play the game. The younger Wisniewski looks like a perfect fit in "The Black Hole."
X: None drafted
Ahhh, I'm starting to exhale!
Y: Texans fifth-round QB T.J. Yates, North Carolina (152)
Yates beats out the only other player with a last name starting with the letter "Y," Lions second-round WR Titus Young. Why? Let's just say it's to pay homage to the great, late Richard Yates, perhaps our country's most underrated modern-day writer. Sorry, Titus.
Z: Panthers seventh-round OT Lee Ziemba, Auburn (244)
He's the 2011 draft's only player with a last name beginning with the letter "Z." But if he comes anywhere close to performing in the same manner as similar-sounding Packers 2010 undrafted rookie OLB Frank Zombo, Ziemba's name will certainly be worth remembering.