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Syracuse Football Should Re-Retire #44

Syracuse Football Should Re-Retire #44

Jim Brown, Monique BrownDino Babers has yet to coach a down for the Syracuse Orange, but he’s already impressed upstate New York with his thoughtful and intelligent comments during press conferences.

This week, he made a statement that clearly shows he’s fully embraced Syracuse tradition. When asked by an alumnus whether a player will ever wear No. 44, Babers gave a very passionate response.

“Here’s what I’ll say about the 44, you guys can hear me right?” Babers said according to Syracuse.com. “Let me say this. Jim Brown. Floyd Little. Ernie Davis. Are you kidding me? 44? I’m not sure there’s a guy we’re recruiting worthy enough to even put that damn jersey on, honestly. I know what that means to me. I know what it means to the people in this group. And if we have a guy that damn egotistical that he doesn’t want to come to Syracuse University because he doesn’t have that jersey on, piss on him.” 

Saying things like this will definitely endear himself to the fan base, but he should have gone one step further. Syracuse football should re-retire No. 44.

Some of the greatest players, not just in the history of the Orange but in football, have won No. 44 at Syracuse. The first of which was Jim Brown.

Arguably the greatest football player ever, Brown was always the biggest and fastest player on the field. He led the NFL in rushing nine times on his way to amassing 12,312 rushing yards with the Cleveland Browns. Brown also made All-Pro an incredible nine times and averaged an unthinkable 5.2 yards per carry in his 10 NFL seasons.

Over the last three years, only four running backs have even averaged more than 5.2 yards per attempt in an individual season, so NFL fans can pretty much forget about any back averaging more than 5.2 yards per carry for an entire career. It can be argued that Jerry Rice, who broke Brown’s NFL touchdowns record, is the only other guy besides Syracuse’s original No. 44 in the conversation for greatest of all-time

Don’t care about his NFL stats when it comes to retiring a number at Syracuse? Well, Brown was great with the Orange too.

He was a consensus All-American in 1956, rushing for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite playing just eight games, two fewer than most other powerhouse programs, that was ranked third and first in the nation, respectively. Brown also led Syracuse to an 7-1 record and a birth in the Cotton Bowl.

Based on his numbers, Brown should have won the Heisman Trophy, but he finished just fifth because Syracuse didn’t play a nationally televised game until the Cotton Bowl and no black player had ever won the award before.

The man who would break the color barrier was Syracuse’s next No. 44 — Ernie Davis. As a sophomore in 1959, Davis rushed for 686 yards on just 98 attempts, leading the Orange to its first and still only National Championship. He scored two touchdowns, one on an 87-yard halfback option, to help beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

Two years later, Davis gained 828 yards as a senior on his way to becoming the first black player to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Davis finished his Orange career with 2,386 rushing yards, which was more than Brown.

Davis actually joined Brown in the Cleveland backfield once he was ready for the NFL, but sadly, Davis died of leukemia when he was just 23.

These guys alone should be enough to retire No. 44 at Syracuse forever, but there is another Orange legend who wore the number. In 1964, the jersey was given to Floyd Little.

It helped that he played more games, but actually, Little ran for even more yards than Davis, gaining 2,750 yards while averaging 5.4 yards per carry in his college career. He also contributed 591 receiving yards and scored 39 touchdowns.

Because Davis never played in an NFL game and Brown wore No. 32 with the Browns, Little is actually the only one of the three who carried the No. 44 tradition in the NFL. While playing for the Denver Broncos, Little made All-Pro in 1969 and led the league in rushing in 1971. He finished his NFL career with 6,323 yards and 43 touchdowns and finally joined Brown in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2010.

The No. 44 jersey has actually been worn at Syracuse since Little, but prior to last year, it had been retired since 1998.

Fans can’t really blame Babers for not taking an even stronger stance, saying it should be retired instead “no one’s worthy enough yet”. As much as Babers is trying to endear himself to the fans, he also can’t ruffle any feathers in the athletic department, which just a year ago, brought the No. 44 jersey out of retirement.

But to honor these three players, who are nothing short of football legends, No. 44 should never be worn for the Orange again. read more at todaysu.com