I set out Monday afternoon in the Eagles’ locker room to find new safety Deshawntee Gallon, who was signed just hours before. It’s not always easy to find a new player like that; basically you have to look for a face you haven’t seen before.
It didn’t take long. He was sitting at a pop-up locker without a name plate and with jersey No. 36, which had been vacant.
“Deshawntee?” I said, questioning whether or not that was him, while also questioning the pronunciation of his name. I was right on both accounts, but asked again if I was getting his name right. He said I was, but shrugged.
“Everyone calls me Ironhead,” he said.
About that …
While he was born Deshawntee Gallon, his father Shawn began calling him Ironhead almost immediately. Twenty-four years later, that name has stuck.
See, Dad was a big fan of former NFL fullback Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who was a first-round pick out of Pittsburgh in 1988 and went on to play 11 NFL seasons, making a Pro Bowl in 1995. Heyward, the father of Steelers DE Cameron Heyward, died of cancer in 2006. In his New York Times obituary, it says he got his nickname from street football games as a youngster, when he would use his head as a battering ram into defenders.
“He brought the pain,” Gallon said about his dad’s love for the original Ironhead. “He was a physical player.”
Gallon said he’s seen plenty of film of his Ironhead namesake over the years and understands it’s a lot to live up to.
“I hear it a lot,” Gallon said. “Every time I introduce myself, that’s what they say. Ironhead, you know you got big shoes to fill.”
The cool thing about the Ironhead nickname is that’s what everyone calls him. It’s not like an additional name; his name is Ironhead Gallon to most people. Like, that’s what they even called him at Georgia Southern over the loudspeaker when he’d make a tackle. And that’s even what his Twitter handle says.
It figures the Eagles would sign a guy named Ironhead the day after I sent out this tweet:
Important update of the best names on the #Eagles roster:— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) August 26, 2018
1. Kamu Grugier-Hill
2. D.J. Killings
3. Aziz Shittu
4. Gannon Sinclair
5. Halapoulivaati Vaitai
6. Jaboree Williams
7. Jay Ajayi
8. Anthony Mahoungou
9. Haloti Ngata
10. Danny Ezechukwu
If I redid this, a guy named Ironhead would clearly go at the top. But I better do it quick because the Eagles have to cut their roster from 90 players down to 53 by 4 p.m. on Saturday and Ironhead is going to be cut. That’s not a slight; just the situation.
He has less than a week to get some film and hopefully play in the final preseason game. After that, it’ll be time to look for a new job. Maybe he’ll make a name for himself on Thursday — well, you know what I mean.
One last thing: I asked Gallon if he had a favorite nickname in sports. There are, of course, plenty.
“I think I’m going to have to go with myself,” Ironhead said.
I think I’m going to have to agree.