In the immediate aftermath of a big play, there’s a good chance you’ll witness someone dance in celebration. A defensive end might break out a few quick moves after a sack or a receiver will go into his latest choreographed dance routine after a touchdown. It is impossible to separate dancing and football because dancing is the natural expression of joy for many football players.
In honor of National Dance Day on Saturday, we’re taking a look at some of the most famous dances in NFL history. Unfortunately, this eliminates some of the more iconic celebrations like Joe Horn’s cell phone and the Lambeau Leap, but there are still plenty of reasons to bust a move on this list. Make yourself a GameDay cocktail and show us what you got on social @gamedayvodka #NationalDanceDay
Ray Lewis Entrance
Perhaps the most imitated dance at those annual Thanksgiving football games, Ray Lewis became well-known for his dances when being introduced before games. There’s nothing too complicated about his shuffle, screaming and chest pops, but it is as iconic as any introduction in sports history. As Hot in Herre by Nelly blares from the stadium speakers, Lewis picks up a clump of grass and throws it in the air to begin his routine. A slide to the left, a shimmy back into position then some artistic hand motions accompanying his chest pumps, fired up the #RavensFlock in Baltimore as well as his teammates.
The Dirty Bird
Only Jamal Anderson could turn dancing like a chicken into a national phenomenon like he did in the late 1990’s for the Atlanta Falcons. The dance that became known as the Dirty Bird was first introduced during the 1998 season in which Atlanta played in its first Super Bowl. It encapsulated all of the swagger and joy of that Falcons team that rode the wave of momentum into the Super Bowl against Denver. The Falcons might have lost that game to the Broncos, but they gained a large following along the way because of the Dirty Bird. In fact, Anderson was once booed in New England that year because he didn’t perform the dance after scoring in Atlanta’s win over the Patriots.
Everything else on this list is a novelty dance, but Victor Cruz brought the actual ballroom to the end zone every time he scored. The salsa dance Cruz nearly perfected every time he reached the end zone was intoxicating to watch as his hips slid side to side in perfect rhythm. Cruz learned how to salsa from his grandmother, and he said he did the dances to honor her and her love of end-zone celebrations. His technique was critiqued by several publications, but that didn’t matter to NFL fans who were just enamored with his charisma while dancing.
The Funky Chicken
The OG end zone dance was Billy “White Shoes” Johnson’s Funky Chicken that he debuted as a rookie with the Houston Oilers in 1974. It wasn’t a new dance for that era as it was originally made popular by Rufus Thomas, but Johnson definitely took the Funky Chicken to new heights. To the average viewer, the jelly-like legs of the dance are just strange, but it was unheard of for players to dance after scoring a touchdown until Johnson entered the league. His dances inspired a wave of dances from the players who followed him, and helped bring us to the modern-day sensation of the touchdown celebration.
The Ickey Shuffle
There is no debate, the Ickey Shuffle certainly was bad dancing, but that is probably what made it so popular for Bengals running back Ickey Woods. Injuries denied Woods a fruitful career in the NFL, but his dancing means he will not soon be forgotten among football fans of that era. The one-legged hop and accompanying hand motion were basic, and Woods lacked some rhythm when performing the dance, but it was catchy. It is an oft-imitated celebration move to this day for those wanting to honor some of the most famous celebrations from the past.
The Super Bowl Shuffle
It’s hard to call what the Chicago Bears did in their now famous 1985 video dancing, but the team certainly did something when recording the song. The music is far more famous than the actual dance moves, but there definitely was some body movements between verses in the original video. It is unfortunate that none of those moves ever made it to the field in a more permanent capacity, but that Bears team meant business, and there was no time for celebrating on the field.