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The Most Important Thing Ever

Tomorrow afternoon Syracuse will retire the most important jersey ever worn in college football.

During this past week there has been a lot of ink dedicated to reminiscing about the number 44 and its impact on the Syracuse community. Rather than compiling and exhaustive list of these articles, I'll highlight only a few. Other remembrances can be found through a Google search.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Scott Pitoniak penned a nice piece entitled 44 Facts About SU's Most Famous Number. Amongst my favorites are:

5. Twenty-five players have worn the number at SU.
6. Halfback Gifford Zimmerman was the first, in 1921.
7. Fullback Rob Konrad was the last, in 1998.
12. Ernie Davis ultimately chose SU over Notre Dame because of the opportunity to wear 44.
16. Floyd Little and Michael Owens are the only 44s to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
18. 44 is the first football number to be retired at SU.
25. John Mackey, an All-American tight end for SU during the early 1960s, wore No. 88. He liked to joke that he was twice the player No. 44 was.
27. Ernie Davis, though he never played for the Browns because he was stricken with leukemia, had his No. 45 retired by the team.
34. Jim Brown scored six touchdowns and kicked seven extra points in his 43-point explosion vs. Colgate. He would have finished with 44, but he missed one of his PATs.
44. Gross has hinted that 44 won't be the only football jersey taken out of circulation. Other candidates: the No. 5 worn by quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Marvin Graves and Bill Hurley; the No. 39 worn by fullbacks Jim Nance and Larry Csonka, and the No. 72 worn by defensive end Tim Green.

Syracuse Post-Standard
Maybe the best memories of 44 were written by those not in the employ of a particular newspaper. Capturing this spirit, the Post-Standard contributes a nice scapbook of 44 memories. Favorite passages include:

As I recall, Jim Brown used to leave a lacrosse game to run the 440 or other event, when both lacrosse and track were scheduled at the same day/time.

Jim Brown’s strength of character has always been outstanding - his personal motivation to achieve athletically, his sense of self-worth when he retired from pro ball after 10 remarkable seasons, (have never seen the idea that the death of Ernie Davis and their planned dual running back future with the Cleveland Browns had something to do with Jim’s leaving) and the courage he has had to speak up regarding the treatment and needs of African-Americans, particularly at the time he first did so. He also helped bring an improved conscience to Syracuse University regarding recruitment and treatment of black athletes.

The long line of No.44’s has been remarkable for both their on-field and off-field character.
And you have to love cheap shots against Auburn:

Without a doubt, my favorite memory of No.44 is Michael Owens scoring the two point conversion against West Virginia to give Syracuse a perfect record of 11-0 and an undefeated 1987 regular season.

Every time I put the tape of that game in I had to fast-forward to the end, McPherson pitching to Owens, him speeding into the end zone just inside the pylon. Too bad Pat Dye didn’t have the same courage in the Sugar Bowl that Coach Mac showed on that memorable day in the Dome.
Last, but not least, is the athletic department's complete composite of Syracuse players that have donned #44.

The dossiers are sparse prior to Jim Brown, but afterwards are worth a glance.

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