This all starts with a thumbs-down signal from Amari Henderson and a position group at Wake Forest that wanted an identity.
In last spring’s football practices, Wake Forest’s cornerbacks were enjoying some success. An emphasis on being more aggressive and attacking more passes thrown in their direction was paying off, and the group wanted to be able to identify itself with a brand.
Senior and team captain Essang Bassey submitted a name to a group message.
So, now introducing “The Bermuda Boyz.”
“We just wanted something to kind of bring us closer as a group,” Bassey said. “Me and Amari talked about it, just something that can keep us close, a brand for ourselves, represent ourselves.
“I don’t know how it came into my head, I guess I was watching something on TV, Bermuda, things get lost there, Bermuda Triangle and all that.”
The official gesture — a thumbs-down signal — for the Bermuda Boyz precedes the name.
In last season’s win at N.C. State, quarterback Ryan Finley threw a lob into the end zone in the first couple of minutes — and Henderson was there to knock the ball away from Emeka Emezie. Henderson got to his feet, waved his arms in the incomplete motion, and then pointed both of his thumbs down. It’s part flex, part message that passes against him aren’t a good idea.
“For me, thumbs down just means not on this side, it’s a no-no,” Henderson said. “Everybody does the, you know, cross the arms, and I just added my own little flair to it. … So, Bermuda Triangle, you know, it’s a no-fly zone. Ships get lost there and stuff like that, so balls get lost in our little Triangle.”
Enough college football programs lay claim to being Defensive Back University — DBU — that it’s hardly unique anymore.
But this is more aligned with Clemson’s defensive line morphing into the “Power Rangers,” a name borne out of former defensive tackle Christian Wilkins’ love for the superheroes, and North Carolina’s defensive backs taking on the “RudeBoyz” moniker since the 1990s.
“I just felt like we needed an identity for ourselves,” Bassey said. “We were playing at a high level in the spring and I thought that if we have that identity, that brand, then we could kind of show what we’re capable of as a unit this season, and give us a name for people to call us by.”
Bassey and Henderson form Wake Forest’s starting cornerback duo, both of them seniors and in their third seasons as starters. Junior Ja’Sir Taylor forms something of a triumvirate for Wake Forest’s cornerbacks room — the three points to the triangle of the Bermuda Boyz.
The first game under the new moniker saw the Deacons give up 416 passing yards to Utah State’s Jordan Love — but it also saw three interceptions.
That’s half as many as Love threw all of last season, and it’s also half as many as Wake Forest had all of last season — which includes an interception by wide receiver Scotty Washington against N.C. State on a Hail Mary.
Henderson’s interception of Love in the third quarter came at a crucial moment, a few plays after the Deacons had been stuffed on the goal line.
“Amari did a great job of reading that three-step drop and breaking on the football,” Coach Dave Clawson said, adding, “Really, you go back and the way the game sequences, twice we went for it fourth-and-1 inside the 10, didn’t get it. Both times, our defense got a stop that then led to a score.
“Part of a reason you go for it down there on a fourth-and-1, you’re counting on (if you get stopped), a stop and getting the ball back and scoring. Both times, that happened.”
Wake Forest forced 16 turnovers last season and committed 19. Starting the season with three takeaways and one giveaway is certainly a better start.
“A lot of big plays happen through the air. If we can make a play like a pick or anything like that to help our offense, that’s always beneficial for us,” Henderson said.
“So I knew, especially at that time of the game, somebody had to make a play and I felt like, ‘Man, this is the play right here, the hitch (is) coming.’”
So we’ll say that ball was lost to Wake Forest’s Bermuda Boyz.