College Football’s Best Number Traditions

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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What’s in a number? Does it have meaning? Why do we remember some players numbers but forget others? In a way, a number can define a player, but it can also represent something more. College football teams tend to have traditions within their programs, but you rarely hear about numbers. The stories behind them are truly amazing, and you can tell how much it means to the player awarded the number.

LSU #7 and #18

Wearing number seven brings attention to the Tigers player wearing it. Players like Patrick Peterson and Leonard Fournette have worn the number, and it’s one of the most iconic numbers in college football. Grant Delpit will be the latest player to wear the number. Number 18 took off early this century with former LSU quarterback Matty Mauck. Jacob Hester, one of the best running backs in Tigers history, made the number famous and held it for the longest time.

Temple single digits

Rod Carey’s checklist remains long, but Owls fans are wondering about the number tradition. Temple typically reserves the single digits for the toughest players on the team. Offensive lineman may receive the honor, but can’t wear the number. This is the most unique tradition with numbers, and arguably my favorite.

USC #55

There’s a debate about what to do with the number. Some of the Trojans best players in its history have worn the number, but there’s uncertainty about what to do going forward. If they retire it, it’s worth it. If they give it to a worthy player, that creates an honorable tradition for players going forward.

Eastern Michigan #2

EMU gives out the number 2 to the best senior wide receiver on and off the field in remembrance of Demarius Reed. Reed was a receiver at EMU who was murdered in 2013. Two years ago they brought the number out of circulation(with his family’s blessing) for this wonderful gesture. Last year, Blake Banham received the honor of wearing the number.

Texas A&M #12

The number is given the a walk-on for the Aggies. Representing an important piece to Texas A&M’s program, the player represents the 12th man. Given the player it typically goes to, you can expect that player to display a tremendous amount of passion. Last year, Cullen Gillaspia wore the number, and grew as a fullback as well.

Virginia Tech #25

Frank Beamer created Beamer Ball in his tenure with the Hokies. Elite special teams play was a staple under Beamer. He gave out the number 25, the number he wore when he played for the Hokies, to to a special teams player. When Justin Fuente took over, he kept the tradition by giving it to a new player every week.

Ole Miss #38

Worn by Chucky Mullins, the number 38 is one of the most respected traditions within the Rebels community. It’s bestowed upon a senior who is considered to be a leader on and off the field. They also receive the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

Others

Colorado State retired number 48 in honor of Fum McGraw. Every away game, the equipment team hangs up a white 48 “McGraw” jersey that the players can touch for good luck. It gives current players a reminder of who came before them.

Rutgers retired the number 52 for Eric Legrand. The former Scarlet Knight sustained a severe injury in a game that left him paralyzed, but has done a lot for the community. The number now is a staple for the program, and players will know who Legrand is forever.

Northwestern’s #1 is given out to the player who most embodies “The Wildcat Way” as voted by their teammates. Fitz started this in 2012 and has included some walk-on RBs, a all-american LB and most hilariously a couple of DTs.
Also 51 is always a LB for us because of Fitz

Ohio State retired 45, and for good reason. Archie Griffin wore that number, and remains the only college football player ever to win two Heisman Trophies.

Buffalo’s Number 41 is given to a player in honor of Solomon Jackson, a former Bulls player who passed away in 2016.

These traditions are fun to learn, and I’m sure there are more. If you know of a number tradition for a school not listed, let me know! There are many great stories regarding the history of these traditions, and they bond current and former players forever.

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