How C.J. Stroud, Tank Dell helped the Squabble take off in NFL

ROUGHLY 400 KIDS sat on the football field at Houston Christian High School patiently waiting for their host, who was holding his first youth football camp and running late.

When Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud emerged, kids chanted his name and roared like they would with many NFL players, but then many began doing Stroud's signature touchdown celebration. The eager group of kids aged 7 to 14 were all doing variations of the Squabble, a dance that originated in Los Angeles but has become a favorite of players across the NFL.

Before the dancing children greeted him, Stroud had planned to teach them the dance, but their moves changed the itinerary.

"They looked like they already knew how to do it," Stroud said at the camp. "It's kind of funny because it's been going more and more viral every day. And I went back home to my old [high school] team's practice, and they're all doing the same thing."

Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft, is trending toward NFL stardom. He has led the Texans to as many wins (three) before the midway point of the season as they had in the entire 2022 season. He has been among the league's best quarterbacks, throwing for 14 touchdowns and 2,270 yards while setting the NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception to start a career (186) -- which was his only interception in seven games.

Stroud's Squabble touchdown celebration has helped his popularity boom, especially among kids scrolling on TikTok. Videos of Stroud and fellow rookie wide receiver Tank Dell doing the Squabble after touchdowns have dominated the app.

Players in the NFL, particularly those with Southern California ties, have been doing the Squabble long before Stroud came along. There's Kayvon Thibodeaux of the New York Giants, who did the Squabble when the Giants selected him with the No. 5 pick in the 2022 draft, and New Orleans Saints receiver Chris Olave, a San Diego native who was Stroud's dancing partner when the two were at Ohio State.

Texans tight end Brevin Jordan, who grew up in Las Vegas, said he had been doing the Squabble since high school but noted that Stroud helped elevate the dance's profile.

"C.J. put it on the map," Jordan told ESPN. "People call it the C.J. Stroud dance, but it's been there. [He's] putting on for L.A. and the West Coast, it's crazy, bro. Really can't put it into words. He really brought that Squabble foundation to the NFL."

CREATED IN LOS Angeles over a decade ago by Daquawn Brown, the Squabble can vary based on the dancer, but at its core, it features two people facing each other with their hands raised as if they are preparing to fight, before moving their arms in a circular motion while crouching and stepping forward.

The Squabble has been a staple in Southern California but took over the NFL this season after the popular video game Madden added the dance to its touchdown celebrations and viral videos spread on social media featuring players across the NFL.

"It's kind of cool just to have a dance," said Stroud, who grew up in Rancho Cucamonga. "I remember Odell [Beckham Jr.] was really big with that when I was in high school. And then, now that I'm a rookie and to be able to play in the NFL, now I have a signature dance."

In 2011, the summer before Brown's sophomore year at Dorsey High School, Brown and his friend Marquise were playing the video game NCAA Football when Brown scored a touchdown and began celebrating.

Brown remembers putting his controller down and doing what he called a "two-step" while putting his arms in the air in a fighting motion and making different college logos with his hands as Marquise sulked. Eventually, Marquise scored and mocked Brown's moves, but later, Brown scored a game-winning touchdown and began celebrating again.

Marquise stood up and mocked Brown's dances with his own version, both with their arms raised and making different college logos with their hands -- it was the birth of the Squabble.

"Everything I was doing, he was countering," Brown said while laughing. "We wasn't running out of moves."

Finding a name for the dance was simple for Brown. In Los Angeles, "squabble" is jargon for a fight, and that's what the dance is supposed to appear as (without the punching part).

"The Squabble is something for you to enjoy with someone else," Brown said. "Most people are happy when they're doing it and dancing. That's the real prized possession for me: seeing people feeling the same way I felt when I first made it."

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS wide receiver Keenan Allen had his touchdown celebration planned out ahead of the team's Week 6 game against the Dallas Cowboys on "Monday Night Football." Allen, an avid Madden player who had seen the Squabble on the game, watched "everybody hit [the dance] every week" and decided it was his turn.

In a recent interview, Allen said he gathered all of the receivers and tight ends ahead of the game to let them know that whoever was on the field when he inevitably scored, should join him in the endzone for a group Squabble.

When Allen scored the game's first touchdown in the first quarter, he immediately turned and waved teammates over. Allen was joined by Quentin Johnston and Stone Smart, but Allen's Squabble clearly needed some work.

"I ain't really hit it how I wanted to ... you know what I'm saying?" Allen said with a smile. "I'll probably hit again though."

For Brown, how well people perform the dance doesn't matter much to him; the many versions of his dance are only a reminder of how far it has come, and its impact on the NFL is even more meaningful.

Brown had always wanted to play in the NFL. Growing up, his speed earned him the nickname "Cheetah," which everyone still calls him. He was a three-star cornerback in high school and went on to play at Washington State before playing four seasons in the Indoor Football League, most recently with the Duke City Gladiators in 2022.

Two of Brown's teammates at Duke City work for a sector of EA Sports that helps with animations for Madden, and they convinced EA to add the Squabble to this year's game.

Though Brown isn't playing in the NFL, he's honored to be a part of the culture.

"That's always been a goal, so it's definitely off the checklist now," Brown said. "I've got it in a different way than anybody else. I don't got to be on Madden to be on Madden. I'm literally on Madden every time somebody scores."