From the attention seekers to the legends – we count down the top 10 NFL touchdown celebrations of all time.
Despite the cries of purists to “act like you’ve been there before!” NFL touchdown celebrations have been around for years, and they’re here to stay!
The league’s loosening of the rules around celebrating – so long as the player or team doesn’t deliberately or directly taunt an opponent – has led to a new wave of creativity around the NFL. But how do the new-age TD celebrations measure up against some of the classics?
We take a look at the 10 Greatest NFL Touchdown Celebrations of All-Time.
10. Moss Moons the Packers (2005):
It’s the fourth quarter of a tense, inter-divisional playoff matchup at Green Bay’s historic Lambeau Field. Minnesota Vikings legend Randy Moss catches a long touchdown pass from Daunte Culpepper, putting Minnesota ahead by two touchdowns and clinching the eventual victory.
To celebrate, Moss ran to the center of the end zone, turned his back to the crowd, bent and pantomimed dropping his pants, in essence “mooning” the crowd. The gesture, Randy claimed, was a response to the Packers’ fans tradition of mooning the visiting team’s bus upon arrival at Lambeau Field. As they’d likely done to the Vikings that day.
Moss’ celebration was fun. But this celebration is best remembered for the (over)reaction of FOX announcer Joe Buck. He angrily called the moon a “disgusting act”.
9. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson’s Funky Chicken (1974):
This is the first of the celebrations on this list that may appear quaint today. However, in 1974 when this Houston Oilers rookie would celebrate with a dance based on a popular song at the time, it became one of the first touchdown dances of any sort in the NFL, and the first to be primarily associated with one player.
Johnson would score only 33 touchdowns in the NFL. But he made sure fans remembered at least a few of them.
8. Atlanta’s “Dirty Bird” (1998):
When the Falcons enjoyed their best season in team history to that point in 1998, teammates Jamal Anderson and O.J. Santiago popularized the “Dirty Bird”, a simple, back-and-forth type dance with the arms acting as ‘wings’ for the bird’s flight.
The dance itself lasted about as long as the Falcons’ Cinderella run to the Super Bowl that year but has persisted as an unofficial nickname for the Atlanta franchise. Also, it occasionally makes a brief comeback when a Falcons player – or in the case of Hakeem Nicks, an opposing player – scores a big touchdown for, or against, the Falcons.
7. Steve Smith “Rows the Boat” (2005):
The most innocent-looking dance on the list has the most risqué back story.
The Minnesota Vikings have a tradition, during the team’s bye week, of taking the rookies out for a party. But the class of 2005 enjoyed a slightly… different celebration, as four players saw themselves arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after the team rented a pair of houseboats for a night out on Lake Minnetonka. The incident hurt the team’s reputation in the community and was a leading factor in coach Mike Tice’s firing at the end of the season.
You can read more details here, if you’re interested.
A couple weeks later, the Carolina Panthers and fiery wide receiver Steve Smith came to town. Fred Smoot, one of the planners of the boat party, made the mistake of talking trash to Smith in the pregame.
The Pro Bowl receiver responded with a 200-yard performance. Plus this unforgettable celebration after his touchdown:
6. Justin Jefferson and “The Griddy” (2020):
Most of this list consists of the old classics. So, let’s get a current-day celebration in here as well!
As if his eye-popping numbers weren’t enough to get the NFL’s attention when he debuted in 2020, Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson also popularized “The Griddy” as his signature touchdown dance.
Like Billy Johnson’s Funky Chicken, the dance doesn’t have a particular connection to Jefferson or his personal history, but it’s easy to do, harmless, and enjoying popularity throughout the league:
5. Joe Horn “Phones Home”? (2003):
Almost twenty years ago, cell phones were still in the process of becoming fairly ubiquitous. So when Saints wide receiver (the WR position seems to make a lot of appearances on our Top 10 NFL Touchdown Celebrations list) Joe Horn pulled out a phone from under the goalpost after a touchdown on Sunday Night Football to call (reportedly) his mom and kids, he made headlines.
This celebration loses some points as it hasn’t aged too well – a flip phone? But in the buttoned-up NFL culture of the early 2000s, Horn’s gesture was memorable and somewhat ground-breaking.
4. “Ickey Shuffle” (1988-1989):
This one predated the Dirty Bird, but it had a lot of similar qualities. A running back enjoying a career year leads an underdog team to a Super Bowl appearance, while a celebration adds to the team’s popularity both locally and throughout the league.
The Shuffle by Elbert “Ickey” Woods came about as the Bengals came out of nowhere to win the 1988 AFC championship. He first performed the dance after scoring against the Jets in October, and by the time the Bengals reached the Super Bowl, the dance was synonymous with Cincinnati’s team.
The story doesn’t have the happiest ending, however. First, the 49ers won Super Bowl 23, keeping Woods out of the end zone and depriving America’s chance to see the dance on the biggest stage. Next, the NFL passed a rule against “excessive celebration” in response to The Shuffle and other such demonstrations. A rule that was only struck down in 2017.
Lastly, and worst of all, Woods was out of the NFL within three years. He was unable to bounce back from repeated knee injuries. The Shuffle, however, has earned him some enduring fame, including a GEICO commercial featuring a middle-aged Woods “celebrating” a grocery order back in 2014.
3. The Spike:
It’s not a dance.
It’s not specific to any player.
Nobody really knows who was “first” to do it.
Yet if you’ve EVER scored a touchdown – in a game, or even in the backyard – chances are you’ve spiked the football.
Celebrations come and go, but chances are years from now football players will still be spiking the ball to celebrate a score.
2. Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens:
We did everyone else a favor and combined these two wide receivers into a single entry for our Top 10 Best NFL Touchdown Celebrations.
Because the truth is you could fill an entire list with celebrations from T.O. and Ocho Cinco.
Owens’ celebrations run the gamut from the original (pulling a Sharpie pen from his sock, and signing the ball for a fan), the funny (borrowing a cheerleader’s pom poms to lead cheers), and the mocking (spiking the ball on the Dallas Cowboys’ star, mimicking Ray Lewis’ pregame routine).
Meanwhile, Chad Johnson is the master of originality. He’s proposed to a cheerleader using the ball as the “ring”, he’s putted the football using a pylon as the golf club, he also had a special mock Hall of Fame jacket made for himself.
But Johnson’s “Riverdance” celebration might’ve taken the cake for both originality – and for his very convincing performance – in 2005.
1. The Lambeau Leap:
The most enduring celebration on the list got its unofficial start in 1993. When the Packers’ LeRoy Butler jumped into the stands to celebrate a game-clinching turnover with the cheeseheads. Since that time, the celebration has become synonymous with one of the NFL’s original franchises and most famous stadiums.
Enjoyed by Packers players for almost three decades, the idea of celebrating with the fans is no longer exclusive to Green Bay. And some visiting players in Lambeau have put their own twist on things, jumping into the stands mockingly to ‘celebrate’ after scoring against the Packers.