Freshmen Jersey Numbers: Inheriting Legacies

By Jeff Beck on March 7, 2013 at 12:00p

With spring practice kicking into full gear, Ohio State recently released an updated team roster complete with new numbers for a few incoming freshmen.

Jersey DayMuch more than a jersey.

I can imagine learning what your number will be for the first time as a Buckeye is quite an experience. I have nothing of merit to compare it to; however, I can tell you that “jersey day” on my high school soccer team was a lot like witnessing sharks devour a whale. Numbers meant something, and everyone was clamoring for the chance to grab a certain digit.

Of course, upperclassmen starters got the first pick, then came underclassmen starters and finally bench players who were left with the scraps. 

Choices were made based on a myriad of factors including favorite number, number worn last year and inherent “coolness” of the number (7 looks cooler than 19. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.)

But those weren’t the only factors taken into consideration. Choices were also made based on former talent who wore the number.

If the graduated star player wore 12, then 12 was in high demand. It was as if the talent could be passed down in a garment. 

Of course that isn’t the case, but we make those associations. That’s why it’s hard to ignore some of the new players’ numbers. With all of the greatness that has come through the locker room at Ohio State, chances are you’re going to get a number that was worn by a star.

Does inheriting the number of a former great guarantee your spot on Mt. Hayes? Of course not. But, with that said, suiting up in a famous number has got to provide a little added inspiration to get better.

So let’s take a look at some of the new players’ numerical muses.

Eli Apple –  No. 13

The incoming CB from Voorhees, N.J. has got a lot to live up to. In Buckeye lore, the number 13 was worn by another incoming freshman who had the talent to put the team on his back at times, ultimately helping pave the road to a national championship.

Say what you will about Maurice Clarrett, but he was a phenomenal player. During his freshman season he tallied 1,237 rushing yards, 16 TDs and a 5.6 YPC. And we won't soon forget this:

J.T. Barrett and Cameron Burrows – No. 16

QB J.T. Barrett is widely considered to be the heir to Braxton Miller’s throne. The four-star prospect out of Texas has a highlight reel that impressed many including LSU, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.

Cameron Burrows is entering the program with similar acclaim. The four-star CB out of Trotwood, Ohio, was courted by the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Wisconsin, but ultimately chose the Buckeyes.

While the two accomplished much at the prep level, neither has had to fill the shoes of a Buckeye #16.

The guy who stretched those shoes out was QB Craig Krenzel. While no one would argue Krenzel was the most talented player on the 2002 national championship squad, many would go to bat for him when it comes to will to win.

For 14 fall and winter game days during the 2002 season, Krenzel put on a winner's seminar. That’s why his #16 should be worn with pride by Barrett and Burrows.

Tracy Sprinkle – No. 93

DE Tracy Sprinkle was handed the number 93. Talk about added inspiration.

Of course I’m talking about DE Will Smith, who appears numerous times in Buckeye defensive records including third-most tackles for a loss in a season (20), fifth-most career tackles for a loss (45.5) and sixth-most career sacks (22). The impressive numbers earned him an All-American nod and a first-round draft selection.

Smith had a knack for making great plays over the course of his Ohio State career, and arguably no snap is remembered more fondly than Smith’s first play sack of Miami's Ken Dorsey in the 2002 national championship game:

Tyquan Lewis – No. 59

DE Tyquan Lewis is a four-star DE out of Tarboro, North Carolina. A lot of informed observers are high on Lewis, because he's athletic and has a big frame. It's not hard to picture him becoming another in a long line of Ohio State greats at defensive end.

Lewis will start his career #59, which kind of puts him in hipster territory. You will be hard-pressed to come up with a Buckeye great that's donned #59 – Ken Vargo? – meaning Lewis has a real chance to make that jersey number cool before it became cool.

That's one route. Lewis could also work himself into playing time and a chance to snag a more coveted number.

May I suggest #94? Not only will it look great next to #93 Sprinkle, but he’ll also be able to consult with the original #94: his defensive line coach, Mike Vrabel.

This from Vrabel’s OSU coach profile page:

Vrabel twice set the Ohio State single season record for sacks and tackles for loss (TFL) and he still holds school records for career sacks (36) and single season and career TFLs (26 in 1995 and 66). He ranks third all-time in the Big Ten in sacks and sixth in TFLs.

Yes, Vrabel truly made the #94 look good. I mean, just look at this guy:


He obviously wore it better than this humanoid.

So there you have it. Much like a high school team, receiving a number means something as a member of the Scarlet and Gray.

The difference is in high school you inherit a number, but at Ohio State you inherit a legacy.


Comments Show All Comments

dubjayfootball90's picture

The videos were a great trip down memory lane. Fun piece. 

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Dips's picture

Couldn't agree with this statement more.

iball's picture

I dont think some of the younger readers really appreciate what Maurice Clarrett did. Obviously, all the focus falls on the negative aspects of his saga. However, I have personally never witnessed a more phenomenally gifted player on the field. You'd be hard pressed to go back and find a Buckeye who impacted the game like he did. Especially as a true freshman.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

Buckeyeneer's picture

Always had the first guy bounce off of him.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Squirrel Master's picture

yep. He may not have and the greatest career but many don't realize that he had those 1200 yards and barely played more than half the season due to injury. He would dominate a game like no other back I have seen since Eddie George. Maybe Hyde can be that this year but Clarrett was amazing. Krentzel truly owes him so much for helping him be the leader and winner that he was that year. 
not to mention, that play was unreal. Not only did he get that ball back but the cut block he did to give Krentzel the time to throw that pass was awesome. Unfortunate he lost all of those instincts after that year. He really could have been something special! Actually, he was something special!
Damn F'ing NFL rules!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Dean's picture

For what it's worth, Clarett was in the same class as Adrian Peterson, and Clarett looked like the better back.  NCAA Football 2003, arbiter of all things, agreed with me.

northcampus's picture

One of the top 5 tailbacks ever at Ohio State.  People will dispute this, but look at the impact he had as a true freshman (playing injured for most of the season).  Take a second to imagine his production level with another year or two of physical and mental development.  His combination of football IQ, vision, determination/competitive nature, and body type (shorter, more compact frame) made him the perfect college running back. He was this generation's Archie Griffin.
I spoke with Clarett a couple of months ago.  He seems to have turned his life around and seems focused on paying it forward by working with youth/troubled youth.  It's a damn shame that the ignorance of his youth cost him so much 10 years ago.  Hopefully, by using his life lessons and resources available to him from being an ex-OSU football star, he can prevent a similar situation from happening with a few kids who need someone to believe in them.  I'm rooting for him more now than I ever did in 2002.

Colorado Buckeye's picture

agreed and I would have loved to see what he could have done in those wasted years... would have been another Heisman for OSU for sure!

Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever!

buckeyepastor's picture

His instincts and natural ability and vision as a runner and athlete were just phenomenal.   Were it not for his injuries, he could have won the Heisman as a freshman.    

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

CC's picture

There's a lot of wouldas shouldas and couldas in there, but if I had one game with any OSU tailback in my lifetime at 100% I take MC over anyone and it's not that close.  Eddie would be the only one I would need to think about.
Eddie is an example of a great talent who lived up to all of his talent.  IMO MC had even more talent and wasted 95% of it.  Sad, but you see it all over the place in life.

buckeyepastor's picture

Eddie was also someone that came in with some attitude and some growing up to do, but obviously things went differently for him than MC.   I will never forget the Illini game when George was a freshman, fumbling twice at their goal line, one of which was returned for a TD, and then seeing him as a senior, how far he'd progressed as a player and person.   
If we're talking 100% healthy, Clarett would be a great one to pick for one game.   Though, talking about totally healthy, when Beanie was at 100%, my God, he was such a beast.  The other one that comes to mind for me was Keith Byars.   In top form, that guy was a monster.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

stittracer99's picture

Clarett definitely put the team on his back on more than one occasion. The '02 team's run was special because it was always bigger than just one player, but I think it's safe to say that they don't hoist the crystal football without him. The same thing could be said for a few others on that team but he always impacted the game. Some of the closest games of that season were the ones where he missed most/all of the snaps due to injury (Cincinnati, PSU, Purdue, Illinois) so it's hard to dispute his meaning and production. Dude just had a true drive for greatness and nose for the endzone.
Not to mention he contributed to one of my favorite SI covers of all time:

Baroclinicity's picture

I'm not the norm, but if I was an incoming player, I'd be more likely to choose a number that was far less popular.  I actually thought Ryan Shazier should have kept #48 after the PSU game last year.
Not to start a war (I'm looking at you, Brewsters!), but I always thought LeBron should have done the same thing.  He shouldn't have taken #23 in Cleveland or #6 in Miami.  Take a number that would most likely always be associated with him.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Squirrel Master's picture

yeah but the difference between Lebron and these guys is that he had no doubt that he would live up to they hype beyond any number. A lot of people know #23 was Jordans but even if you didn't, you would still know who Jordan was. Same with Lebron, he is bigger than the actual number he wears.
Hopefully one or more of the guys above can be bigger than the number but if they just live up to the legacy of the number, that would be enough for me. 

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

OSUBias's picture

Who was #6 before Lebron? I'd argue he's making that his own, I can't name a player who made 6 famous.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

Baroclinicity's picture

Dr. J.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

cswig's picture

Or this guy...

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

I agree with you on Shazier. I know the single digit and teen numbers are most popular through college, but I like the more traditional look now that the trend has worn itself out. Outside of Cam Heyward it seems like we haven't had a solid 90's numbered D-lineman.  I think it would be cool if Tyquan Lewis stuck with 59. IMO make a name for yourself, don't follow anyone or worry about looking cool, people will remember an unpopular number more now anyways.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

SMP's picture

Very true about the passing of numbers.  Upper classmen sucked up the "cool" numbers and lowly freshmen got the scraps.  Always wanted to wear number "12", but was usually reserved for QB's.  Finally got it my junior year... I thought I won the lottery.  I won it in "King of the Ring" drill.
Thanks for bringing up past Buckeye greats! 

TheShookster's picture

What about the great John Conroy for #59? I have a game-worn #59 jersey from 2005 and after some research I traced it back to the former walk-on. (I just think it's cool to have a game worn jersey of any type and also it's so huge that it looks like a dress on me. Conroy was a big boy)

He ain't even stretch doe!!

WoodyTresselUrban's picture

so have the numbers of players for the entire roster been released yet?

thatlillefty's picture

No youtube access at work but that Clarett video has to be the strip from the NCG. That play was unreal.
Also, was I the only one who missed the news when Eli Woodard changed his name to Eli 'Apple'? I just figured out the two are the same, yesterday.

Baroclinicity's picture

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

buckeyepastor's picture

When I hear #13, I also think of Damon Moore, big hitting strong safety from the 1990s.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

Damon Moore was a beast, very under-rated Buckeye player.   I remember being pretty  depressed when he left for the NFL a year early.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Call me an old-fashioned Ohio boy... but I think a big hit or big play from the defense goes a lot farther in pumping up the team and fans than a flashy offense...
of course, with UFM in town... we'll take both!

USMC11917's picture

I always had the mentality, "give me a number and I'll make it famous". Not saying it happened but it wasn't for lack of confidence haha!

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I'm guessing Brady is wearing the Vrabel OSU jersey because of a lost bet after an tOSU-scUM game?

BigMoosie's picture

Any predictions on the numbers of the other incoming freshman who get to campus this fall??

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Some notable changes.
Adam Griffin is 11, Evan Spencer is 6, Devin Smith is #9 (i thought it was cool that he wore 15 so it seemed like Braxton was throwing to Dee) 
I'm willing to bet there will be many more changes coming once the fall guys arrive. 97 is currently worn by a walk on DL, I'm sure Bosa gets dibs on that. I don't think our staff would have a guy with his picture taken in a 97 jersey on his visit if he wasn't going to wear it. Who knows.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

Nkohl13's picture

I actually noticed that Spencer changed his number at some point during the season last year.

Nkohl13's picture

I hate the trend of our players changing their numbers late in their career after they have already made a name for themselves. Like Hall changing to 2 and Devin Smith changing to 9. Smith's bothers me more because he has worn 15 and started for two years now. He has been a part of a few iconic plays like the game winning touchdown over Wisconsin in 2011 and his one handed touchdown catch vs Miami OH. He made a name for himself as #15 and now he is just switching to 9.
#13 and #16 are great numbers but I'd be willing to bet that Apple and Burrows ditch them as soon as a single digit comes along for the taking.

buckeyepastor's picture

If Hall is #2, what is Rod Smith's number?   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Nkohl13's picture

7, they switched

sharks's picture

Taylor was a great one, but running the ball out and then not securing it through the pile is a really low 'football IQ' play.
Clarett saved us on that one for sure-  I know a guy who played against him in HS and then was a teammate at tOSU and said Mo was by far the best football player he had ever seen.

A man got to have a code...

harleymanjax's picture

I would choose the greatest number in the history of sports...............14 Peter Edward Rose!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"