By Kenny Van Doren, @SidelinesCuse
The personal and sentimental reasons behind a number might be silly to some, but an athlete’s number means more than anything. It all comes from a “look good, play good” mentality, or it comes from tradition. Players these days idolize their heroes; LeBron wears 23 because of Jordan, many MLB shortstops wear number 2 because of Jeter, etc. For Syracuse University, the number 44 was given to the starting running back for a 14 year stretch. College football legends Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little wore this number. 44 is the most historic and connected number to any college football program ever, and the Syracuse football program should bring this number back.
Tradition is what makes college football, college football. Penn State has their white out game at Happy Valley, the state of Alabama has the Iron Bowl, Mississippi the Egg Bowl, etc. Rivalries, uniforms, and numbers are exactly the kind of tradition that needs to be kept alive in college football. For the Syracuse Orange, the number 44 was first worn in 1921. Here is a list of all who wore 44:
Gifford Zimmerman, halfback, 1921
Charles Roberts, halfback, 1924
Clarence Taylor, quarterback, 1925
Don Baldwin, wide receiver, 1926
Richard Fishel, halfback, 1932
Henry Merz, quarterback, 1933
Hamilton Watt, wide receiver, 1934
Francis Mullins, halfback, 1935-36
Stanley Sanislay, wide receiver, 1937
Benjamin DeYoung, wide receiver, 1938
Francis Mazejko, guard, 1939
Richard Ransom, tackle, 1940
J. O’Brien, tackle, 1945
Robert Eberling, running back, 1952
Jim Brown, running back, 1954-56
Thomas Stephens, halfback, 1957-58
Ernie Davis, halfback, 1959-61
William Schoonover, halfback, 1962-63
Floyd Little, running back, 1964-66
Richard Panczyszyn, quarterback, 1967-69
Mandel Robinson, running back, 1977
Glen Moore, running back, 1981-82
Michael Owens, running back, 1987-89
Terry Richardson, running back, 1990-93
Rob Konrad, fullback, 1995-98
The number is rooted in a deep history of All-Americans, NFL players, and two NFL Hall of Famers. It even has its ties to the basketball team with greats Danny Schayes, Derrick Coleman, and John Wallace wearing it. Wallace was the last to suit up in the towering 4s, even though the program retired his number earlier this year. Many fans wanted another big man to bear 44, such as the late, great Fab Melo.
One argument about bringing back 44 is if players can live up to the greatness that comes with the number. We may never see a Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, or Floyd Little ever again in blue and orange, but the 44 Foundation was made to honor and keep the spirit alive. Sure, they may not leave the same impact, but traditions are essential to college sports.
44 should make its way back to the field for the Orange, and it does not even have to be the running back. Give the number to the captain of the team. Texas A&M finds a player to wear their beloved 12 each season that displays the highest level of leadership, and Syracuse should do the same. The number 44 is so sentimental to the University in many ways, so why not bring it back? Make it a number of honor and give it to the leader or hardest working player. With a number so heavily tied to some of the greatest college athletes in the 20th century, it would be an honor for any Syracuse football player to wear. Leave it up to Brown and Little, and see if they want their number to be on the backs of the future.
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