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For Dicaprio Bootle, his name puts him on center stage


CHARLOTTE — There are still some people around here trying to figure out what to call him.

Veteran cornerback Troy Hill has been going with "Bottle Cap" since that's the name special teams coach Chris Tabor hung on him when he walked in the door. Punter Johnny Hekker has spent some time wearing lederhosen in his life and wondered if he could make "Das Boot" stick (probably not).

But when you're born Dicaprio Bootle, you've heard them all before and then some.

The newest member of the Panthers' 53-man roster has been dealing with this his whole life, sometimes enjoying it and sometimes not, but always on the verge of telling the story again.

On Sept. 17, 1997, Dwight and Caliope Bootle's son arrived, and there was a moment of indecision.

"When it was before I was born, my parents really couldn't agree on a name," Bootle explained. "They really couldn't come up with a name, but my mom and my aunt ended up watching Titanic and just fell in love with the movie, fell in love with Leonardo DiCaprio.

"My understanding is it was like a joke at first, then it was like, 'Oh, we're naming him Dicaprio,' and then my mom and aunt were into it. So it kind of stuck, and so shout out Leo DiCaprio."

The name obviously has a ring to it. It's euphonious. It's fun to say. He's been a regular on the All-Name teams since he was in college at Nebraska. But before he became a starter at a major college program, there was an entire lifetime spent in elementary and middle schools when it wasn't always easy to carry that name.

"When people meet you, you know, like young kids butcher it, mess it up," he said. "Some of my teachers kind of pause at it for a second. So it's kind of a funny thing, I guess you could say.

"Growing up, I'll be honest with you, I didn't really like it all the time. Because people would mess it up, so I just rather had not went through that a lot of times. But, as I got older and just growing with the world and just realizing how unique it actually is and how different my name is, now I love it.

"My mom, she named me that. I always tell people like she did her thing when she named me Dicaprio because I have a unique name. I just feel like I'm one of one, so she knew I was special."

And befitting his namesake, he knew how to make a timely entrance. With the Panthers struggling with injuries in the secondary, they signed him to the practice squad in September after he spent the previous two years with the Chiefs (appearing in seven games). He caught their eye in practice, and became an immediate contributor on special teams and was elevated to play each of the last three games. After he used all three of the elevations he was allowed, they added him to the active roster.

"You know, he was a pickup for us right there after camp," Tabor said. "He runs well; he's a good football player. He can play multiple positions. He has kind of a corner body, a smaller body type, but yet he can play big. He's been a real, I wouldn't say pleasant surprise; that's what we saw on tape when we got him from Kansas City, and he just kind of keeps getting better.

"He's a young player that I think that the ceiling is still way up there."

And after getting here and contributing fairly quickly, there was the matter of getting to know everyone. Football locker rooms are places where nicknames take root quickly, especially if your name is longer than five or six letters. (Calvin Throckmorton became "Doc Throck" in a hurry.)

So most of the people here have settled on "Cap" or "Boot," and he's fine with that.

"I mean, it just depends on where you know me from," he said. "A lot of people call me Cap or Boot. I got a couple of other names, too, but it just depends on where you know me from.

"But really here, Boot for real."

He laughed when Tabor coined "Bottle Cap" — "That's a new one for me," he said. But it's something he's gotten used to as people get to know him.

When you grow up Dicaprio Bootle, attention comes easily, and you learn how to handle it.

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.

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