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Shaq now plays football: The boom of athletes named Shaquille or Shaq

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While watching the sports ticker scroll by  this year I happened to notice that I kept seeing the name "Shaq" or "Shaquille" appear on a fairly high basis.  But the updates weren't referring to The Big Aristotle" aka Shaquille O'Neal but actually college football players.

I started thinking about the age of Mr. O'Neal (38) and the average of a college student (18-22).  There is a 16 to 20 year difference between the two.  So are all these football players popping up because of the popularity of Shaq 20 years ago? I don't remember it being a popular name earlier in the decade but all of sudden there is a boon.

According to the Social Security Administration the name Shaquille first cracked the top 1000 baby names in 1991 landing at 719.  1991 also happens to be the start of Shaq's Junior season at LSU and final year before being drafted #1by the Orlando Magic.

Here is a chart detailing the popularity of the name Shaquille over the last twenty years.  It only cracked the top 1000 for a six year span that ended after 1996.  The lower the number the more popular the name.  The name Shaquille took a nose dive after Shaquille O'Neal joined the Lakers in 1996.  Another theory is that the name became less popular after the release of the movie Kazaam which featured Shaq as a genie that was also released in 1996.

Year of Birth                


So obviously there was a spike in that name due to the NBA star and we are now seeing that today in the sports world 20 years later.  There are currently six players on FBS rosters playing college football currently with the name Shaq or Shaquille.  Only two players are currently playing Divsion 1 basketball and both are named Shaquille.  So who are these mysterious Shaquille's that are popping up?  Let's take a closer look at each one.

Curious about the origins of the name Shaquille?  Well according to the website the history of the name Shaquille is:

The boy's name Shaquille \

sh(a)- quille, shaqu(il)- le\ is pronounced sha-KEEL. It is of American origin. Modern variant of Shakil (Arabic) "handsome". Made familiar in modern times by basketball celebrity Shaquille O'Neal, also well known by the short form of his name, Shaq.


Shaquille has 6 variant forms: Shaq, Shaqeell, Shaque, Shaqueel, Shaquil and Shaquile.

Here is a breakdown of each player named Shaq or Shaquille that is currently playing college football for an FBS school.

Shaq Wilson - Junior LB, South Carolina Gamecocks

The most famous of the Shaq's, Wilson has 102 tackles and 2 interceptions during his career at South Carolina.  The leading tackler last year for SC was hampered all summer with a hamstring injury.  After appearing in only one game this year the injury worsened and Wilson will miss the rest of the year.   He is expected to redshirt this season and get healthy for 2011.

Shaq Bell - Freshman CB, Colorado State Rams

Playing as a true freshman for the Rams has had it's ups and downs for Bell.  This season he has appeared in five of seven games for the Mountain West team.  With 17 tackles on the year his best game came against Nevada where he totaled 10 solo tackles.  In a game against the Idaho Bell was burned several times by Vandals receivers. 

Shaq Belson - Junior LB,  Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

After appearing in five games as a redshirt freshman and totaling nine tackles Belson has not done much.  Nagging injuries limited him to just two games in 2009 and he has not had any playing this year.  Interesting fact: his full name is Shaquille O'Neal Belson.  Probably just a coincidence.

Shaquille Richardson - Freshman CB, Arizona Wildcats

Richardson is in his first season at Arizona and has been getting better every week.  A breakout performance last week against Washington State resulted in seven tackles, two interceptions and PAC 10 player of the week honors.  On the year he has totaled 12 tackles to go along with his two picks.  The beginning of the year didn't start off well for Richardson who originally signed with UCLA.  The highly rated recruit and two teammates were dismissed from the Bruins due to an arrest in June for allegedly stealing a students bag from campus.  His time at Arizona has gone well and he has no idea why his parents named him Shaquille.

Shaquille Dudley - Freshman LB, Buffalo Bulls

The hometown kid stayed in Buffalo and signed with the Bulls.  Though he has yet to see the field I'm sure he will an impact during his career. He was also interested in Penn State and Syracuse before settling on Buffalo.

Shaquille Jefferson - Freshman S, Indiana Hoosiers

Jefferson is similar to Dudley in the aspect that he is a freshman hasn't played this year.  Last year he redshirted due to an injury suffered during his Senior year of high school.  His brother Jamario O'Neal played strong safety at Ohio State. 


Well there you have it.  All six athletes detailed who have a unique name and play football instead of basketball.  So what did we learn?  Well all six players are on the defensive side of the ball and have some interesting backgrounds. 

But don't you dare think that these will be the only Shaquille's you'll be watching on Saturdays in the future.  According to Rivals there are twenty prospects named Shaq or Shaquille who could be signing with college teams teams this year.  Seven are rated three stars and two earned two star ratings.  Since it is now 19 years later that the name Shaquille first became popular we can expect another five or six years of athletes with the name turning up in the college ranks. 

Maybe Shaquille O'Neal will still be playing at that time or he will eventually retire to work on his film career and star in Kazaam 2.