After a training camp practice this summer, when discussing the value of side sessions with his wide receivers, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton rattled off three names: Mohamed Sanu, Julian Edelman, and “Doughboy.”
“I’m sorry,” Newton clarified. “N’Keal.”
“Doughboy,” we’ve since learned, is Newton’s affectionate nickname for second-year receiver N’Keal Harry. Where exactly did this moniker come from? Newton didn’t share much about the origin story, other than that there is a connection to Pillsbury’s lovable, pudgy mascot, who giggles when you poke him in the stomach.
What does the nickname mean? We still aren’t quite sure. But Newton did make one thing clear: “Doughboy” is not a reflection of Harry’s toughness.
When asked about it, Harry seemed unfazed.
“It’s all jokes,” he smiled. “It’s all love at the end of the day.”
Turns out plenty of Patriots have received nicknames from Newton. Edelman, for example, is “Highway 11,” a nod to his jersey number.
More and more nicknames have been revealed via Newton’s weekly news conferences, and they sometimes can be overheard during practices and even games.
Many involve variations of the player’s first or last name, such as “Winnie the Pooh” for offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and “Burkie” for running back Rex Burkhead. Center David Andrews is “Dirty Dave.” Guard Joe Thuney is “Smokin' Joe.” Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer is “The Hoyster,” while Jarrett Stidham is “Stiddy.”
Others are a bit harder to place, but we can surmise some reasonable guesses.
“Free Mason” is likely Shaq Mason. “Bent Dog” is probably Ja’Whaun Bentley. “Bo Diddley” could be nose tackle Beau Allen. “Buzzo” seems to make the most sense for tight end Ryan Izzo, even though he doesn’t rock a buzzcut.
“Twin No. 1” and “Twin No. 2” are obviously referencing Devin and Jason McCourty, although the brothers don’t know who is No. 1 and who is No. 2.
“It’s hard to keep up with Cam,” Devin said. “I’m older, so I’m guessing I’m Twin 1. But when you call twins ‘Twin 1’ and ‘Twin 2,’ that means you don’t know the difference. So, on any given day, we’re both ‘Twin 1’ or ‘Twin 2.’ ”
Not all of Newton’s nicknames are that easy to match up, though.
“Crazy Legs” could be anyone. Newton’s clue was that the player is on injured reserve, so perhaps Gunner Olszewski? Or Damien Harris?
Regardless, most of his teammates have embraced the fun.
“It’s refreshing,” Burkhead said. “It’s kind of his thing. We have a great relationship. He’s done a tremendous job leading us and getting to know guys on the team. Having the nicknames for the guys, I think this is kind of his way of starting those bonds with guys on the team.”
“Cam has been real cool,” added Devin McCourty. “I think just little things like that of getting to know your teammates and having conversations with them, he’s done a lot of that. It has been fun to have him in the locker room.”
Only one player — wide receiver Damiere Byrd — seems to have playfully pushed back a bit. Newton says he calls him “Little Butt.” Byrd insists he’s calling him “Little Bud.”
So, which is it?
In December 2017, when the two were on the Carolina Panthers, Byrd caught a pass from Newton and, after bobbling the ball, came down on his backside near the far edge of the end zone. Officials deemed Byrd out of bounds, but the Panthers challenged the ruling on the field. The call ultimately was overturned, giving Byrd his first NFL touchdown.
Byrd’s coach at the time, Ron Rivera, along with his Panthers teammates, marveled at how he was able to stay inbounds because of the small size of his backside.
“I guess it pays to have little cheeks,” Newton said.
Three years later, Newton hasn’t forgotten about the play. Hence, “Little Butt.”
While Byrd much prefers the likes of “Bud Light,” “D.B.,” or “Byrdman,” he understands Newton’s nicknames are all in good fun.
“The energy that he brings always uplifts anyone,” Byrd said. “He’s accepting of every person on the team. He’s very in-tune with his teammates in trying to bring everyone together.”
Oh, and as for the coaches? They, too, are fans.
“I’m sure I have multiple nicknames,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels laughed. “He’s a fun guy to be around. He keeps it light and fun.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.