After 33 years, the “Ickey Shuffle” returns to the Super Bowl — The Undefeated

Elbert “Ickey” Woods congratulated winning quarterback Joe Burrow with a heartfelt bear hug and a handshake moments after the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game January 30. And after the exchange, almost at the right time, Burrow gave a brief rendition of one of the most famous celebrations in sports history.

“He wasn’t even born when the ‘Ickey Shuffle’ came out,” Woods said, choreographer and creator of one of the NFL’s most famous touchdown dances. “It is lived. He lived a great life, and I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that something I did over 30 years ago would still be relevant to this day. And I still enjoy it. »

At the start of the 1988 season, in the Bengals’ final Super Bowl run, Woods was a rookie running back. He created a dance while joking with his family, who begged him not to make it public. Many of his teammates shared the same sentiments.

Despite the protest, a new craze was born.

“You play the game for fun, and not being able to celebrate is crazy,” said Woods, who was given the nickname “Ickey” as a baby because his older brother couldn’t pronounce his first name. “Now the NFL has lightened up because they realize it’s entertainment.”

Prior to Woods’ meteoric rise as a rookie with the Bengals, he led the nation in rushing in 1987 with over 1,600 yards for UNLV. Even before the Bengals selected him in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft and had success on the court, Woods became known for his five-inch Jheri curl ponytail.

In 1988, a young black man from Fresno, California with an Ice Cube hairstyle was uncommon in the Midwest. But then-Bengals owner Paul Brown didn’t care.

“He told me I could wear my ponytail as long as I scored touchdowns,” Woods said.

And he did.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods carries the ball while being chased by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Keena Turner (left) during Super Bowl XXIII on January 22, 1989 at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.

Sports Zoom/Getty Images

Woods finished his rookie season with 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns in 16 regular season games. He averaged over five yards per carry and his regular-season rushing touchdowns remain the most in franchise history.

Former Bengals guard Solomon Wilcots highlighted how Woods not only brought productivity and talent to the roster, but also a likeable personality that was so infectious that even the stoic Brown slacked off.

“Paul Brown walked into the locker room one day and told Ickey how much he didn’t like the Ickey Shuffle, but he took it because his wife liked it,” said Wilcots, who hosts The opening reader broadcast on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “He’s the same man who coined the phrase ‘Act like you’ve been there before’ when you score a touchdown, and hands the ball to the umpire after you score.

“So later in life, he gives Ickey his blessing to do that Ickey dance. If you can convince Paul Brown, you know you’ve done something right.

On October 9, 1988, Woods rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns against the New York Jets, and the “Ickey Shuffle” was officially born.

Woods said he did variations of the dance earlier in the season, but after consulting with teammate Rickey Dixon, the dance looked like this: while alternating the soccer ball in each hand, two steps to the right , two steps to the left and back to the right like a pogo stick, followed by a smash of the ball.

“When he showed [some of us], I said, ‘Don’t you dare do that, please don’t do that,'” Wilcots said. “I said to him, ‘You’re going to embarrass yourself and then embarrass me because I’m your boy and I’m not going to let you out like this.’ But he went ahead and did it.

The shuffle became such a hit that t-shirts were made and even a milkshake called the “Ickey Shake” was created to honor the dance. Today, the shuffle has even become an agility ladder exercise.

“When he showed [some of us]I said, ‘Don’t you dare do that, please don’t do that.’

— Former Bengals goaltender Solomon Wilcots

The Ickey Shuffle became so popular that the NFL initially banned the celebration as a taunt. But the league quickly caved, allowing for celebrations if not in the end zone. So Woods started performing his shuffle behind the team bench for the Bengals fans.

“And our fans were more eager than me to do it behind the bench anyway. So I was good with that,” Woods said. “But this is just another example of how things have changed since then.”

Some things remain the same, especially in recent years when a new generation of fans learned about the Ickey Shuffle from a Geico ad in 2014.

“I was able to get publicity with my mom and I was able to get my own publicity with Geico,” Woods said. “And every time I do something in the world, people want me to mix it up. I go to schools and teach a new generation of kids to play the shuffle.

Woods will join the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Cincinnati’s return to the big game is a celebration for Woods, but it’s also bittersweet because he can’t share the moment with his son, Jovante, who died aged 16 in 2010 from an asthma attack. following high school football practice.

Jovante’s death inspired Woods to create the Jovante Woods Foundation to raise funds for asthma awareness, research and even organ donations.

“Any time you lose a child, it’s emotionally devastating and indescribable,” said Woods’ former Bengals teammate Tim McGee. “But I’m very proud of his focus and dedication to raising awareness and funds for Jovante’s foundation in his memory.”

Unknown to Woods at the time, his son registered as an organ and tissue donor on his license. Not only did Jovante’s heart, liver and kidneys help four people live, but his soft tissues and bones helped cancer patients regain the use of their limbs.

“We have received heartfelt letters from some of the families who have accepted his organs,” Woods said. “They thanked him for helping their loved ones extend their lives. What Jovante has done makes me proud.

“He loved the Bengals because I played for them. He’s probably in heaven smiling at the guys, and hopefully we can get this win and finish this thing.

CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz (left) presents the Lamar Hunt Trophy to former Cincinnati Bengals running back Elbert “Ickey” Woods after the AFC Championship game Jan. 30 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri .

Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Like that year’s Bengals, the 1988 team went from being the worst in the division the previous season to a division title and the AFC championship. Woods believes this new generation of Bengals has a lot in common with the last Cincinnati team to qualify for the Super Bowl, but also recognizes several differences.

“Our team was lucky to have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs,” Woods said. “These guys had one game at home and two on the road against the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, and beat them to qualify for the Super Bowl.

“They’re a great team, with all of their major pieces with less than five years of experience. I can’t wait for this team to do great things over the next 10-15 years.

Branson Wright is a freelance multimedia sports filmmaker and journalist.

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