While his catchy nickname has become engraved in worldwide fame, he received the nickname in infamy.
Before his days of professional daredevil stunts, Knievel lived a less-than-noble life of crime and recklessness, which landed him in jail when he was a teenager.
"There was another guy in the jail and his name was Knofel, and the jailer looks at his manifest and he says, 'How do you like that? I've got 'Awful Knofel' and 'Evil Knievel' both in my jail tonight!" recounts motorsports promoter J.C. Agajanian Jr. "It stuck, and that's how Evel Knievel came by his name."