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Name Game: Every nickname has a story, even the most obvious ones

James Vincent scores versus Duke on Nov. 9, 2012. Vincent has two nicknames– "Big Fella" and "Oak." Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics.

Most sports fans are familiar with the notable nicknames “Hammerin’ Hank,” “His Airness” and “King James.”

These alternative monikers may define the athletes just as much, even more in some cases, as their night in and night out performances on the field or court.

Several athletes at Georgia State have secondary identifications that go beyond their birth names.

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And they all have unique origins.

 

Planting roots

James Vincent, who also goes by "Oak," uses one of his limbs to alter a shot versus Townson on Feb. 9.  Vincent recieved the nickname due to his tree-like stature and strength.  Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics. 
James Vincent, who also goes by “Oak,” uses one of his limbs to alter a shot versus Townson on Feb. 9. Vincent recieved the nickname due to his tree-like stature and strength.
Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics.

Senior James Vincent, an opposing 6-foot-10 center on the basketball team, is so big he commands two nicknames.

He is sometimes referred to as “Big Fella,” but more commonly answers to “Oak.”

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“One day, we played pickup and one of my teammates ran into me and fell,” Vincent said. “He almost broke his shoulder. They called me ‘Oaktree’, but it became ‘Oak’ because I’m solid, I’m big and nobody can move me.”

 

Life imitates pop culture

Chris Locandro, a junior on the soccer team, is an All-CAA defender and has been honored with several academic awards during his time at Georgia State.

He also earned the nickname “Drago” during preseason conditioning his sophomore season.

“I had done well on the fitness tests and I was known for being particularly good at pushups,” Locandro said. “Because of this and my closeness to the actor (Dolph Lundgren plays the Soviet Union boxing cham- pion Ivan Drago in the movie Rocky IV), my teammates and trainer elected to call me ‘Drago.’”

Alexis Elmurr of the sand volleyball team also credits her nickname to an 80s craze; Jim Henson’s “Fraggle Rock.”

Since the team’s roster features another Alexis, assistant coach Beth Van Fleet and strength trainer Melissa Schmitz decided Elmurr should go by “Fraggle.”

“My hair reminded them of a Fraggle,” Elmurr said. “And I’m always smiling and working hard.”

Alexis Elmurr serves at the GSU Sand Volleyball Complex.  Elmurr's work ethic and hair style have earned her the nickname "Fraggle." Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics.
Alexis Elmurr serves at the GSU Sand Volleyball Complex. Elmurr’s work ethic and hair style have earned her the nickname “Fraggle.”
Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics.

 

Staying power and purpose

While sports nicknames are com- mon, not every player has one and those that exist may not even stick among fellow teammates and fans.

How well-known one becomes may depend on several factors, ranging from player performance to the actual complexity of the name.

“If the nickname is short and distinct, then it can gain traction pretty quickly,” Locandro said. “Within a couple of days of when my nickname was originally proposed, the majority of the team referred to me as ‘Drago.’”

Players may also refer to their teammates by nicknames as a way of establishing stronger friendships and bonds.

Teams tend to be tight knit, almost family-like, due to their long hours together and common goal of winning championships.

Nicknames are bound to form within this dynamic.

“Sometimes we’ll call Kyra (Crosby) ‘Princess’ because of the way she acts,” Gabby Moss of the women’s basketball team said. “She can play, but she’s so girly. Miranda (Smith), we call her ‘Mike’ because they say she looks like Michael Jackson.”

Moss, whose middle name is Gabriel, has been called Gaby since she was a little girl, a name her mom always liked.

“It kind of stuck as I got older,” Moss said. “Because I seemed to talk alot.”

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