Bud Poliquin has written plenty of insightful, interesting columns over the years. But I couldn’t disagree more with his piece today at Syracuse.com. It’s not blasphemy to re-issue #44 to Robert Washington or anyone else. And I say that because when I was at SU, #44 was in rotation. And none of us found that to be sacrilege. It was carrying the torch.
I was on the Hill, covering SU football and calling the games for WAER Sports from ’97-’01. At that time Rob Konrad was opening up big holes for Dee Brown and Kyle McIntosh. He was picking up the blitz for Donovan McNabb. He was bowling over would be tacklers for tough yards. I knew the history of the number. I watched film on Jim Brown. I read all about Ernie Davis. I pored over Floyd Little’s stats. And none of us ever thought it was demeaning to #44 that Konrad was wearing it.
Konrad embodied everything you want your program to be about. He was hard-nosed. He was committed to the team. He did whatever it took to win. He took his degree seriously. He went onto a healthy career in the NFL. That guy didn’t deserve the number because he wasn’t Jim Brown?
Michael Owens is not in the NFL Hall of Fame. He never won the Heisman. But he scored some of the most important touchdowns in program history in 1987’s magical run. Did he not deserve #44? Terry Richardson isn’t an all-time great, but had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in his SU career. Is that not good enough?
The fact is, while we all want to honor Jim Brown and Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, but we do so in other ways. Statues. Plaques. Names in the rafters. #44 should be a baton that is passed down through the program’s history. This isn’t just a desperate plea for Robert Washington to commit. This is about watching that gorgeous, symmetrical, purely Syracuse number on the field again.
It doesn’t help the program collecting dust in the rafters. It’s only a reminder right now of what the program no longer is. It doesn’t dilute the legacy of the number because Konrad and Richardson and Owens weren’t Jim Freaking Brown. Nobody ever will be.
Bud writes: “Get a grip, folks. Get a grip before it’s too late.”
It is too late. Because the moment Doc Gross used the ceremony to sell a few more tickets, the moment we decided the next Rob Konrad is no longer deserving of a simple jersey number, is the moment we lost grip with what SU football is.