Cleatus the Robot: the Unsung Hero of the NFL

By Mark Coogan

Morten Anderson holds the record for most games played in an NFL career with 382. Don Shula holds the record for most NFL games coached with 526. Most football fans know these two names and could tell you the some of the teams they played and coached for—they could even tell you about some memorable games they played parts in. But there is someone, or should I say something, that will have played a role in more than 700 NFL games before the end of this season and even the most diehard fans couldn’t tell you its real name. I’m talking, of course, about Cleatus the Robot.

Cleatus the Robot made his first appearance during an NFL game in the middle of the 2005-2006 season and became a mainstay of Fox NFL broadcasts the following season. The robot received the name “Cleatus” after a naming contest held by Fox executives in 2007.

Cleatus has always been featured in segments going into or coming back from commercial breaks, but for much of his early career, his skills seemed limited. Cleatus always performed the same routine in which he would jump up and down, shake out his limbs and stretch his neck, run in place for a second or two and then extend his hand towards the camera with his index finger out as  if counting or pointing at members of the opposing robot football team.

Fearing that his performance was getting stale, Cleatus expanded his repertoire for the 2008-2009 season. The new array of moves included dances like the electric slide and the swim, an impassioned guitar solo, and certain themed performances such as hitting a bucket of baseballs during World Series promos, or lazily waving a noisemaker while holding an icepack to his head (nursing a hangover) as confetti falls during games around New Year’s Day. The famous robot also has a history of getting beaten up by other mascots and movie characters like the Burger King, a dragon from “Eragon”, a “Terminator” robot and Iron Man.

You probably never knew Cleatus the Robot’s name, but it is highly unlikely that you were unfamiliar with his work. Cleatus has become as much a part of the game of football as men like John Madden and Mike Ditka, and even though he will be replaced on Thanksgiving Day by a football-playing robot turkey, Cleatus will continue to be a part a football for years to come.



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