NFL

NFL players play the name game for introductions

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HOUSTON (AP)

(Eds: Updates with photo links, APPro32 website link. With AP Photos.)By KRISTIE RIEKENAP Sports Writer

State your name and school.

That's the only guidance NFL players get before taping introductions for Sunday night games.

Most simply list their college, but some players get creative.

Last week, three players on the Houston Texans' offensive line gave their elementary schools and one his middle school. The announcers joked that preschools were sure to come next week. (They were actually behind on that: A former Seahawks player once said his daycare group.)

The Houston linemen decided to use their elementary schools last season for their first appearance in a playoff game. When Houston was to be on NBC again Sunday night, they planned to recite their middle schools.

What they didn't realize is that players must specifically ask to make a change or the network uses what already has been shot. So new addition Derek Newton said his middle school according to plan, only to be the odd man out when three of the four other linemen were left with their elementary schools from last year's footage.

''We were kind of bummed out about it because we all wanted to be the same,'' Houston left tackle Duane Brown said.

A fifth lineman, Antoine Caldwell, also didn't follow suit because he was a backup last year and not privy to the plan. The former Alabama player still stood out, though. He passed on saying Alabama for ''Roll Tide Roll.''

Brown got a great response from the introductions and said they have another surprise planned for Houston's next night game on Nov. 11.

''We try to get away from the norm,'' he said. ''We wanted to take it all the way back to our early beginnings. We had a good time with it. It was pretty fun. I heard from my former teachers, and the principal contacted one of my cousins who goes there now to tell me how proud they were that I said the school. It was a huge hit.''

Fred Gaudelli, the producer of the Sunday night games, said players love the introductions.

''Especially guys that don't handle the ball, offensive linemen or defensive players, it's their chance to introduce themselves to the country and show who they are,'' Gaudelli said.

Then there are those who make up schools or use the introductions to joke or give a shout-out to family members.

''We let them do what they want,'' Gaudelli said. ''It's their moment to personalize themselves.''

Former NBC producer Don Ohlmeyer started the practice of players introducing themselves in 2000 when they were still doing ''Monday Night Football.'' They've continued to do that since moving the show to Sunday night. He got the idea from college broadcasts in the late 1960s and early 1970s when players would introduce themselves and state their heights and weights in pregame shows.

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs is a player who's always taken advantage of his moment in the introductions.

In one of his early ones, he said Duke and Donna University. Of course there is no such school. Suggs revealed to a producer that Duke and Donna are the first names of his parents.

''You've got to have fun,'' he said, adding that he doesn't plan them in advance. ''I used to go straight with it, but they started messing my name up, and where I went to school and who I was, so I started to say things that have to deal with me.''

He's also used ''Sizzle Sun Devil'' as a nod to Arizona State's mascot and even incorporated lyrics from a Jay Z song in his introduction last year (Sizzle Ball So Hard University.)

''He's always been a creative one,'' Gaudelli said. ''I love Terrell Suggs for that.''

Another player who's used the platform to have some fun is Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen. He attended Idaho State, but over the years has said everything from The Culinary Academy to home school. Once he simply said: ''Thanks Mom.''

San Francisco 49ers receiver Randy Moss gave some publicity to his hometown in West Virginia when he went with the fictitious Rand University while playing for the Vikings.

Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson, who won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan, had a little fun with his intro several years ago when he played for the Raiders. He said: ''Mr. Woodson to you all. You know the school.''

Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, who went to Grand Valley State, has never used anything other than his name and college. But while talking about it this week, the player from Flint, Mich., thought of one he'll use next time.

''I would say, Brandon Carr, Flintstone,'' he said in a nod to his hometown.

Ohio State players frequently put the over-enunciating THE in front of their school name, and other schools like Texas have copied that style. Last Sunday, Packers linebacker D.J. Smith, who went to Appalachian State, added the hard THE in front of his school in the introductions.

And everyone's heard Miami players simply saying The U instead of the school's full name.

''It's just something we called Miami when we were at school,'' Houston's Andre Johnson said. ''The U is on our helmets so it was just something that we always said. It was just something that always stuck with us.''

Sometimes players who try to be cute run into trouble with their schools.

''Some guys do their junior college and then their real college calls them and gets mad at them and they ask if they can do their real college,'' Gaudelli said. ''So I always let guys redo them.''

He often gets emails from fans about the introductions, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

''There's hardly ever anything in entertainment that is universally liked, that you don't get complaints about even if you think it's great,'' he said. ''This is the one thing we never receive complaints about and we always get praise for.''

He does, however, get the same question repeatedly.

''I've gotten emails from the fans before asking me if I make the NFL wait for the lineups to end to snap the ball,'' he said. ''I've got that email quite a bit, and I laugh. I wish. No, I'm just trying to get it in there in between plays.''

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AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell, David Ginsburg and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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Tagged: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Texans, Terrell Suggs, Brandon Carr

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