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Name Precedes Ironhead Gallon

Posted Jun 22, 2017

Rookie safety hopes nickname isn't only thing memorable about his time with Cardinals

Cardinals safety Ironhead Gallon gets some field one work during OTAs.

There is only one place to start.

“It’s always the name,” Ironhead Gallon said with a smile.

The linebacker-turned-safety out of Georgia Southern, one of the Cardinals’ undrafted rookies, doesn’t have “Ironhead” on his birth certificate. His given name is Deshawntee. But his father Shawn – a military man – was a fan of long-time NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. So when Deshawntee was little, he too was called Ironhead.

“It kind of stuck with me,” Gallon said. “I didn’t like the nickname at first, but I kind of grew into it.”

On a team that has a Frostee, a Scooby, a Gump (Hayes, another undrafted rookie) and a Honey Badger, Ironhead still stands out.

“When you introduce yourself to people as Ironhead, I’m pretty sure they know you mean business,” fellow safety Tyvon Branch said with a laugh.

Nicknames don’t earn you jobs on an NFL roster, of course. That can only come through performance, something that is difficult to do as an undrafted rookie, especially one who was playing middle linebacker his last year of college. But by the end of OTAs – helped, in part, because second-round safety Budda Baker was absent since his college class had not yet graduated – Gallon was getting reps on the first field. (The Cardinals used two fields for practice in OTAs, with the bottom half of the roster working on field two.)

“As an undrafted guy as he has gotten reps on field one and looked OK,” scout Adrian Wilson said in a text message. “Still has a long way to go but I think he has a chance for sure.”

Gallon sees himself as a physical player, a reason he now embraces his nickname. At 5-10 and 202 pounds, his size is closer to Baker and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary. But he sees himself as a fit, with Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals as a team “I have watched forever.”

That resonated when the Cardinals reached out to make an offer following the draft and the phone call duty fell to Wilson, one of the team’s all-time best safeties.

“I was like, ‘Man, it is the Adrian Wilson,’ ” Gallon said.

“I couldn't tell if he knew who I was because the era I played in featured Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, so of course any other player playing the position will get lost,” Wilson said.

Wilson acknowledged Gallon has an “uphill battle.” Gallon understands the odds, but it’s just more football to him. Competition will figure out whether he gets to stay or not.

If he does, he can build a brand as Ironhead – “My agent gives me talks about it all the time” – as he embraces a nickname he can no longer live without.

“I give my dad all his credit,” Gallon said with a chuckle.

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