College football's best, by the numbers
Posted: Thursday January 3, 2008 11:13AM; Updated: Thursday January 3, 2008 12:47PM
The story behind why Dan Marino chose his now-iconic No. 13 is more logistics than legend. "When I was a kid my Daddy (Dan Sr.) coached Little League and every year he would let all the other kids pick their own number," says Marino, now an analyst for CBS Sports and HBO. "Nowadays parents let their own kids pick first but I got whatever was left over. It so happens I was a bigger kid and the 10 to 15 were the numbers that were available. It seemed No. 13 was always there so one day as a kid I just decided, I'm going to make this my number since no one else wants it. That's where it started."
Our easiest choices? Roger Staubach (12), Dorsett (33), Jim Brown (44), Dick Butkus (50) and LeRoy Selmon (93). Numbers that lacked star quality: 29 (Eric Turner), 91 (Doug Atkins) and 96 (Daniel Stubbs). The number worn by the most stars? Earl Campbell, Billy Cannon, Johnny Rogers, Billy Sims, Mike Garrett, Mel Renfro and Bernie Kosar all wore 20.
The toughest calls? Howard "Hopalong" Cassidy over Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch (No. 40) and Archie Griffin over Sammy Baugh (No. 45). Baugh would have been the top choice at nearly every other number but Griffin is the only player to win the Heisman twice and start in a Rose Bowl four times. He gets the nod by the nose of a football. Writers Clinton Jackson and Bill Trocchi offer arguments for Rocket Ismail (25) and Jerry Rice (88) over top choices Tommy McDonald and Keith Jackson.
The history of college football players wearing numbered jerseys dates back exactly 100 years. In 1908 Washington and Jefferson became the first college to number its football uniforms, according to the book Sports Firsts. However, it discontinued the practice the same year. Numbered football uniforms reappeared at the University of Chicago five years later when coach Amos Alonzo Stagg used them for a November 1913 game against Wisconsin. Alas, the practice did not catch on with most major colleges and universities until the 1920s.