Vonnie Holliday is hoping to come back to the Arizona Cardinals at age 36 as a backup defensive end. He has played fourteen years in the league, since being Green Bay’s first round pick in 1998. Last week, he was visiting at Larry Fitzgerald’s house when this year’s first round pick, Michael Floyd, had a question for him.
“Are you the same Vonnie Holliday I grew up watching?” asked receiver Michael Floyd, 22, the Cardinals’ first-round pick.
“I told him, ‘Are you serious?’ ” said Holliday, 36. “But at the same time, I was like, ‘Yes, I am that Vonnie Holliday.’
While you may think Michael Floyd was either trying to be funny or dense (“of course it’s the same Vonnie Holliday”), the history of football suggests that cases of mistaken identity are not all that uncommon. Sure, there are plenty of Smiths and Williams’ and Johnsons, and six different Charlie Brown who have tried to kick it in the NFL. There have also been far less common names, some more improbable than another Vonnie Holliday, involving multiple unrelated players.
If you use homophones and accomplishment, then the Curt Warner/Kurt Warner combo ranks at the top. After that, you get the Cris Dishman and Chris Dishman fast man/fat man duo from the 1990’s. Running back Josh Scobey and kicker Josh Scobee entered the league one year apart. Bobby Humphrey and Bobby Humphery both played in the 1989 and 1990 seasons. Brian and Bryant Westbrook, unrelated, have both played in the league in the last fifteen years. Fantasy football fans probably remember Billy Volek’s crazy back to back 400 yard, 4 touchdown games in 2004; most won’t recall Billy Volok’s fumble return touchdown for the 1937 Chicago Cardinals.
Five different Hollidays have played in the NFL, so you might think it unlikely that two would be named Vonnie. Well, there have been five Spears, and two of them recently have been named Marcus.
Three players have been named Gene Washington in NFL history. All were wide receivers, and all played their entire career between 1967 and 1979. The two Brian Mitchells came into the league a year apart. One went on to become one of the best returners of all time. Mel Gray was also a notable name, but it was two different guys–one a wide receiver for the Cardinals and the other a return man for the Lions.
Even setting aside the most common surnames, duplicates and cases of mistaken identity abound. Two Jim Jensens played at the same time in 1981-1982; you are more likely to remember the one that caught passes from Dan Marino later. Steve Jordan was both a tight end and the kicker in the 80’s. Ron Heller played tight end for the Eagles while another Ron Heller played tackle for the Bucs during the same time. The duo of Jim LeClair arrived five years apart, one a quarterback from C.W. Post, the other a linebacker for Cincinnati from South Dakota. There were two David Terrells, one a bigger bust than the other.
Lest you think it is only for the anonymous, teams had a chance to draft Cam Newton a few years earlier, and it wouldn’t have cost them a first overall pick. He’s not the only first overall pick who followed in a namesakes’ footsteps, as there is another Jeff George out there who played three years earlier and probably received fan mail from a young Jason Whitlock. Two different Adrian Petersons have played running back recently, one slightly better than the other.
My favorite, though, are those random ones that seem truly unlikely. Joe Pellegrini and Joseph Pellegrini were born eight months apart. One went to Harvard and one went to Idaho. At least one got a good education. The other got to live near Boston. There was a guard named Randy Rasmussen in the league for most of a twenty-year stretch from the 1960’s to late 1980’s. They were different guys, though, born 15 years apart.
I remember Steve Broussard, the running back from Washington State who played with the Falcons. Less likely to be remembered is Steve Broussard the punter. He’s got a pretty good claim to fame, though. He played in only 4 games for the Packers in but had 3 punts blocked. That ignominious feat has him in the top ten all-time for punts blocked in a season.
Finally, there’s the case of Allen DeGraffenreid. One was born in Ohio and played for Ohio State, getting into two games for the Bengals in 1993. The other was born in Kansas City and played tackle at Vanderbilt, playing five games for the Cardinals in 1998. I might buy that two guys named DeGraffenfreid played for the Dutch National Team, but if there were only two, five years apart, and they both happen to be named Allen? Well, finding out that there’s another Vonnie Holliday out there ready to emerge wouldn’t shock me at all.
[photo via US Presswire, all player data from pro-football-reference]