American Football Database
American Football Database

Touchdown celebrations are sometimes performed after the scoring of a touchdown in American football. Individual celebrations have become increasingly complex over time, from simple "spiking" of the football in decades past to the elaborately choreographed displays of the current era.

Individual arenas have also developed unique celebratory rituals such as the running of "Quick Six", and the "touchdown horse" of the Calgary Stampeders, after each hometown touchdown.[1]

NFL football

Taunting and celebration are both offenses in the NFL; as a result, gaudy displays are often frowned upon. If the league views the act as highly offensive, large fines and even suspensions can be issued. In 2006 the NFL, in an effort to cut down on celebrations, amended its rules to include an automatic 15 yard penalty against any player who leaves his feet or uses a prop, like a towel, or more specifically the football.[2] The penalty is called as "excessive celebration", and the yardage is charged against the offending player's team when that team kicks off to the opposing team.

Simply spiking the ball is not considered "excessive celebration", but deliberately spiking it in front of a defender is. Jumping onto the outer wall to accept contact from fans, such as the Lambeau Leap, is also not considered such, as it is off the field of play.

NCAA football

College football, governed by the NCAA also penalizes excessive celebrations with a 15 yard penalty. NCAA Football Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(1)(d) prohibits "Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)"; in addition, Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(2) asserts that "After a score or any other play, the player in possession immediately must return the ball to an official or leave it near the dead-ball spot."[3] Additionally, if a player's actions is considered "unsportsmanlike conduct" the result is dead-ball foul; a "flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct" foul requires player ejection. If a player’s nonfootball-related act (e.g. taunting or cursing) causes an opponent to physically retaliate, it is considered fighting and both players are ejected.[4]

Arena football

The rules for celebrations in the AFL are the same as the NFL; no props are allowed. However, choreographed or group dances are often seen after a score.

CFL football

Player celebrations

The CFL is much more lenient than the NFL when it comes to touchdown dances. It often has very small, if any, penalties handed out to players who celebrate excessively.

CFL end zone celebrations often include more than one player, often a whole wide receiving corps of 4-6 players. Past celebrations have included five Calgary Stampeders receivers holding out their hands and mimicking the pouring of drinks from a champagne bottle, then stumbling around as if drunk; another end-zone routine simulated a bobsleigh run when receiver Jeremaine Copeland sat down and wrapped his legs around the goal-line pylon with the rest of the receiving corps tucked in behind him. The same group also pantomimed a four-seater stationary bicycle, which all players played a role for the bicycle.[clarification needed]

Edmonton Eskimos punt returner Henry "Gizmo" Williams celebrated punt return touchdowns by doing a backflip in the end zone.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a celebration whereby players form a circle, toss a football in the air in the middle of the circle and then fall directly backwards in unison when the ball lands on the ground as if a hand grenade has exploded.

In the 2008 CFL season, the Winnipeg receiving corps did a few celebrations, most notably a version of Duck, Duck, Goose, as well as a walking race across the end zone.[5]

In the 2009 CFL season, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats did a memorable celebration in Winnipeg, as a fishing boat was at the edge of the end zone. Hamilton scored two touchdowns within a minute, both times got into the boat and celebrating as though they were fishing, literally showboating.[6]

During the August 14, 2010, a celebration by the Toronto Argonauts in which several players mimicked a rowing crew drew an Objectionable Conduct penalty.

Stadium celebrations

Long-standing tradition at McMahon Stadium has a horse run the length of the stadium with a team flag each time the hometown Calgary Stampeders scores a touchdown.[7] Other stadiums have developed similar traditions. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a small airplane (known as the "touchdown plane")[8] while the Saskatchewan Roughriders fire smoke mortars from behind the goalposts in celebration of home team touchdowns. The Edmonton Eskimos have a fire engine circle the field after each touchdown, throwing souvenirs into the crowd.

Memorable celebrations

  • The "touchdown spike": New York Giants wide receiver Homer Jones is credited as the first player to throw the ball into the field at his feet after scoring a touchdown. He first did this move in 1965, calling it a "spike", and it is said to be the origin of post-touchdown celebrations.[9]
  • In 1969, Elmo Wright, a junior wide receiver for the University of Houston, began celebrating his touchdown receptions with a 'celebratory' end zone dance. In his third year with the Kansas City Chiefs, he caught a touchdown pass in a game on Nov. 18, 1973, against the Houston Oilers and celebrated with what some believe was the first end zone dance in NFL history.[10]
  • The 1980s Washington Redskins "The Fun Bunch": The 1984 Washington Redskins raised the bar on celebrations by performing a group high-five after scoring. The NFL had made previous attempts to curb celebrations but, after the 1984 Fun Bunch, they changed the rules and "excessive celebration" was disallowed. This is one of the few offensive squads that have managed to acquire a nickname.[11]
  • In his rookie season of 1988, Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods gained media attention with a touchdown dance that became known as the "Ickey Shuffle." He had plenty of opportunities to do this, as he set a rookie record with 15 touchdowns in the regular season and added 3 more in the playoffs en route to Super Bowl XXIII.
  • In tribute to his father's boxing career, Ken Norton Jr. would strike a boxing stance in the end zone each time he scored a defensive touchdown and throw a punching combination at the goalpost pad.[12]
  • Arguably the most famous NCAA celebration was Desmond Howard's end-zone move after returning a punt for a touchdown against Ohio State in 1991. In his since-copied celebration, Howard mimicked the pose of the figure on the Heisman Trophy. Howard won that same honor later that year.
  • During the 1998 NFC championship season Jamal Anderson and other members of the Atlanta Falcons did the Dirty Bird dance after touchdowns. This dance consisted of gyrating like a chicken.
  • Receiver Randy Moss, then with the Minnesota Vikings, was fined $10,000 after a short touchdown dance that ended with him pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd in a 2004 playoff game. Moss claimed he did it because the Green Bay crowd often moons the bus of the opposing team when it pulls into Lambeau Field.
  • New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn performed a highly publicized touchdown dance after he scored a touchdown against the New York Giants in the 2003 season. Horn spiked the ball after scoring the touchdown and then went to the upright, where he pulled a hidden cell phone out of its padding, and then used it to call his children. He was fined $30,000 by the NFL.
  • During the 2002 season, Terrell Owens had two memorable touchdown celebrations. After a score in a Monday Night Football contest against the Seattle Seahawks, Owens pulled a Sharpie out of his sock and signed the game ball which he then gave to his financial adviser, who was sitting in a seat close to the end zone; Owens was fined $20,000 by the NFL for defacing the ball. After scoring a touchdown in a December contest with the Green Bay Packers, Owens celebrated with a pair of pom-poms borrowed from a 49ers cheerleader.
  • Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, formerly Chad Johnson, had a number of original celebrations in the 2005 season. After a touchdown early in the year against the Chicago Bears, he performed his version of the "riverdance". In one game against the Indianapolis Colts, he knelt down on one knee and pretended to propose to a Bengals cheerleader, who accepted the mock gesture. After he had been fined several weeks in a row for excessive celebrations, Johnson celebrated his next touchdown by holding up a sign that read "Dear NFL, Please don't fine me AGAIN!!!!!!" (and was subsequently fined $10,000 by the NFL). Other celebrations included performing CPR on the football, picking up a pylon in the end zone and using it to 'putt' the football into an imaginary golf hole then pumping his fist in a loose imitation of Tiger Woods (for which he was fined $5,000), doing an Irish jig, and even went so far as to do the Chicken Dance. Before one game, he wore a nameplate that said "Ocho Cinco", and was fined by the NFL (Chad Johnson legally changed his surname to Ochocinco in 2008).
  • New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, in a game against the Chicago Bears in 2006, stuck the ball under his shirt to mimic being pregnant. He received a 15-yard penalty and a $10,000 fine from the NFL. He later claimed he did that it because his pregnant wife was in the stands.
  • New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz often does his rendition of a salsa dance inspired by his grandmother. The move resulted in Cruz receiving an offer to appear on the show Dancing with the Stars, which he declined.
  • On September 26, 2010, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson imitated a minuteman firing a musket and then falling backwards pretending to be shot at Gillette Stadium after scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown against the New England Patriots. He was fined $10,000 for that celebration.
  • During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers performed the "championship belt" move after touchdowns, imitating putting on a boxing or wrestling championship belt. After the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers was presented with a replica Big Gold Belt by teammates, and in the following weeks, during a scheduled WWE Raw telecast, the Packers were honored with title belts from the WWE itself. In a series of State Farm commercials that aired during the 2011 season, Rodgers and a State Farm representative argued whether the move was a touchdown dance or the "discount double check" dance to celebrate saving money on insurance. During the 2011 season, opposing defenders would taunt Rodgers with the move after sacking him.
  • On October 21, Mike Tolbert of the Carolina Panthers and Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills did the Gangnam Style dance in their Week 7 games.[15]

It has been argued that celebration penalties have affected the outcomes of games. The September 6, 2008 game between Washington and BYU saw the Washington quarterback, Jake Locker, score a touchdown, putting Washington within one point with two seconds to go. Upon entering the endzone, however, Locker threw the ball high in the air, for which his team was penalized, the referee applying NCAA Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(2), which asserts that "after a score or any other play, the player in possession immediately must return the ball to an official or leave it near the dead-ball spot," paragraph (c) of which expressly forbids "throwing the ball high into the air." BYU blocked the ensuing 38-yard extra point attempt and won the game.[16]

On December 30, 2010, Kansas State's Adrian Hillburn scored a 30-yard touchdown catch with 1:08 left in the 2010 New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse, narrowing the score to 36-34. He subsequently saluted the crowd in a quick military fashion and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty pushed Kansas State's 2-point conversion attempt (to tie the game and possibly force it into overtime) back to the 18 yard line. Kansas State would then miss the 2-point conversion, and Syracuse went on to win the game.[17]

See also

  • Goal celebration


  1. Quick Six webpage
  2. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine.
  3. 2008 NCAA FOOTBALL RULES AND INTERPRETATIONS, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Page 112, Accessed August 4, 2008.
  4. Unsportsmanlike vs. Personal Fouls, 2007 NCAA Football Guide, Page 3, Accessed August 4, 2008.
  5. Video of touch down celebration:
  7. Stampeders homepage
  8. Winnipeg Sun article
  9. Bill Pennington (September 30, 2001). "Giants' Wide Receivers May End Long Drought". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  10. Finley, Bill (November 13, 2005). "Father of End-Zone Dance Explains His Happy Feet". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  11. "The Fun Bunch". Archived from the original on 2008-01-21. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  12. "Ken Norton Jr.". Retrieved 2009-11-08.
  13. Gwen Knapp (December 21, 1997). "Dances with Hanks". Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  14. Phil Taylor (December 01, 1997). "Basketball Jones". Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  15. "NFL Gangnam Style: Mike Tolbert vs. Jason Pierre-Paul (VIDEO)". Retrieved 2012-10-23.
  16. Booth, Tim (2008-09-06). "BYU holds back Washington on last-second PAT block". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-09-08.[dead link]
  17. "Excessive celebration flag curbs K-State’s enthusiasm". Retrieved 2011-01-01.

External links