Jim Brown. Ernie Davis. Floyd Little.
The three best ever players for Syracuse football all wore number 44 for the Orange during their SU careers. Before Brown sported the number on his jersey in 1954, the renowned 44 was just another number. Brown, Davis and Little turned wearing 44 into a privilege. The six players given 44 after Brown, Davis and Little left SU might never have matched the success of the famed trio, but were still entrusted with the responsibility and honor of wearing the shirt for Syracuse. Wearing 44 really meant something.
In November 2005 the number was retired. Fullback Rob Konrad was the last player to wear 44 for SU in 1998.
Imagine if Scott Shafer and Daryl Gross decided to bring the number out of retirement.
It certainly wouldn’t hurt recruiting. Telling a high school kid that he could one day wear the historic 44 shirt for the Orange is a unique and motivating selling point.
Having Shafer select one deserving offensive upper classmen (if there’s one on the roster in a given year) to wear 44 would show younger players how a Syracuse football player is supposed to act on and off the field. The talent exhibited by past 44s will surely not be reproduced, but the leadership and respectability could be.
It would be a switch from how the number worked in the past when it was given to a player usually for a few seasons based off of their excitement level. It would not be wise for the SU coaches to throw this responsibility at an electrifying but inexperienced young talent. 44 needs to be earned.
Because of Brown, Davis and Little many people outside of Syracuse are familiar with SU’s magic number. Bringing 44 back would increase interest in Syracuse football, even if just by a little: “I wonder how the new 44 is going to do?” “Did you see that great play by 44 last night?” It would give viewers another reason to watch.
So, could the great 44 even be unretired?
Precedence says yes. The Broncos unretired 18 when Peyton Manning came to town and former Bronco quarterback Frank Tripucka begged him to wear it. A similar situation unfolded in Seattle with Jerry Rice and number 80 in 2004.
Since Brown or Little will never beg any commit to wear 44, looking at what Michigan started to do with the number 21 in 2012 is much more applicable to Syracuse’s situation.
Wolverines coach Brady Hoke decided to give Desmond Howard’s number 21 “Michigan Football Legend” jersey to wide receiver Roy Roundtree because he: “graduated in April and is taking graduate classes, and he’s become one of the leaders of Team 133, on and off the field. He’s earned it,” according to his coach. Michigan decided against retiring the number and instead now memorialize it by giving it to a talented upper classmen leader each year.
Syracuse football would benefit if Shafer did the same with 44 at SU.
Posted by: Connor Morrissette