Photo via BuffaloBills.com
For an athlete, few things hold as much intrinsic value as their jersey number.
Behind every number is a story, and the longer a player wears a certain number, the stronger the bond becomes. Following the NFL Draft, some of the best athletes in the world just learned they would have to pick new numbers. Members of incoming rookie classes often find their favorite numbers are unavailable, so they’re left with a difficult question: what digits will they rock in the NFL? How and why they answer that question differs for every player. Here’s how seven high-profile rookies chose their new numbers.
* Rookie numbers are still subject to change
1. Ezekiel Elliott is the New Primetime
College Number: 15
NFL Number: 21
After a dazzling career at Ohio State, Ezekiel Elliott engenders great expectations for his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys. When Elliott opted to make his new jersey No. 21, those expectations grew even larger. Why? Because the last Cowboy to wear that number was none other than Deion Sanders.
Now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sanders created such a great legacy in Dallas that many fans believe his jersey number should already be retired. But if Elliott can replicate the electric play of “Primetime,” we’re sure Cowboys fans will forgive him for appropriating those digits.
2. Cardale Jones Will Wear a Reminder of The NFL Draft
College Number: 12
NFL Number: 7
There was a point in time when it seemed like Cardale Jones would be a first-round draft pick. However, a rocky 2015 season caused his stock to tumble, and he was ultimately drafted 139th overall by the Buffalo Bills. Seven quarterbacks were taken before Jones in the 2016 NFL Draft, a fact that he commemorated in his new uniform number.
RELATED: Cardale Jones Can Out-Throw Many NFL QBs From His Knees
3. Sterling Shepard Honors His Father
College Number: 3
NFL Number: 87
After an incredibly productive career at the University of Oklahoma, Sterling Shepard was selected by the New York Giants with the 40th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Shepard wore No. 3 in college, but single-digit numbers aren’t permitted for receivers in the NFL. His new number, 87, has some serious family tradition behind it. Shepard’s dad Derrick wore 87 when he played in the NFL from 1987 to 1991. Derrick passed away when Sterling was only 6, but his new number now serves as a tribute and a reminder of his father.
4. Su’a Cravens Wants to Play Like Sean Taylor
College Number: 21
NFL Number: 36
Ever since Sean Taylor’s tragic death in 2007, no Washington Redskins player has worn No. 21. Su’a Cravens—the Redskins’ second-round pick out of USC—wore 21 in college, but he knew he’d have to make a change in Washington. The linebacker-safety left it up to the fans, and the overwhelming opinion was that Cravens should don No. 36, the number Taylor wore during his rookie season with Washington. Cravens loved the idea.
RELATED: We Spent a Day Chilling With Su’a Cravens
5. Jaylon Smith Did Some Simple Math
College Number: 9
NFL Number: 54
During his awesome career at Notre Dame, Jaylon Smith wore No. 9. When he got selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, he knew that 9 would not be an option—that’s Tony Romo’s number. How did he choose his new number? He just performed some simple arithmetic.
Besides being composed of two digits that add up to nine, 54 is a prestigious number for NFL linebackers. Among the greats who’ve rocked 54: Brian Urlacher and Zach Thomas.
6. Dak Prescott Remembers His Mom
College Number: 15
NFL Number: 4
When it came time for new Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to pick a fresh jersey number, he decided to honor his mother, Peggy Prescott, who passed away from colon cancer in 2013. Peggy’s birthday was September 4, so Prescott chose 4 as a way to honor her memory and carry her with him on the field.
7. Jalen Ramsey Wants To Be Like Mike
College Number: 8
Desired NFL Number: 23
Right now, Jalen Ramsey wears No. 38 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But he is not very happy about it, as that number has been historically lame. In fact, only two current members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame wore number 38, and both played when leather helmets were in fashion.
The number Ramsey really wants is 23. He recently signed a deal with Jordan Brand, and he would like to wear the company’s most famous number. There’s just one problem—23 already belongs to second-year Jaguars safety James Sample.
Ramsey recently told Jaguars.com he would give Sample “shoes, cash, everything” in exchange for the number, but negotiations have been rough. Ramsey mentally selected the NFL number he wants, but will he actually get it? He’s going to have to make Sample an offer he can’t refuse.