You haven't arrived till you have a nickname

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As a kid growing up in the Carolinas without an NFL team, I adopted the Minnesota Vikings because I liked the nickname of their defense.

When you're 8 in the pre-Barney the Dinosaur world, "The Purple People Eaters" sounded cool.

It didn't get any better than Alan Page. Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larson with their coined phrase, "Meet at the Quarterback."

I thought of that earlier in the week when Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy said his No. 3-ranked unit is trying to play well enough to "become one of those nickname defenses."

I thought about some of the all-time great nicknames, from Chicago's "Monsters of the Midway" to Denver's "Orange Crush" to Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" to the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" to Dallas' "Doomsday Defense" to Miami's "No-Name Defense" during the undefeated 1972 season to their "Killer Bs" 10 years later.

I thought about all the great players on those units, from "Mean" Joe Greene to Deacon Jones to Lawrence Taylor to Ed "Too Tall" Jones.

I thought about how as well as Hardy and the Panthers are playing, they're a ways from nickname status. Even Hardy admits that.

"I feel like you've got to get the abs before you get the tats," Hardy said, something I can't imagine Page or Eller saying or even thinking. "You've got to make it look good. You can't get the artwork on a fat stomach."

Well, there is that.

But for the sake of argument, let's suppose the Panthers continue to play at this level for the rest of the season. Let's say they establish themselves as a defense to contend with for years to come, something that is hard to do with free agency.

What would be a catchy nickname?

Hardy, who refers to himself as "The Kraken," made a push during the summer when he gave several teammates "Monster Inc." nicknames. That never really caught on, so here are a few ideas I knocked around:

  • Star Warriors -- This unit is anchored by rookie, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who will be around for a long time. You also could have fun with Luke "Skywalker" Kuechly.

  • McDermonators -- Might as well give defensive coordinator Sean McDermott some love.

  • The Gospel of Luke -- It is the Bible Belt and Luke Kuechly is the centerpiece.

  • The Intimidators -- This is NASCAR country, too. Motto could be "3 and out."

  • Mash Unit -- Southerners don't push things, they mash them.

  • Southern Bellringers -- I do declare, not sure where that one came from.

  • The DNC -- The Democratic National Convention was in Charlotte last year. Just change the words to Destroy, Nullify, Conquer.

OK, now I'm reaching.

Open for suggestions.