Reggie Bush, college football's most recent Heisman Trophy winner, was recently drafted by the NFL's New Orleans Saints. Most likely, he will soon be making more money than most of us will ever see. Mr. Young isn't happy, though. You see, he's worn the number 5 on his football jersey all through high school and college, and would like to wear it again in the NFL. But - the NFL , which definitely does NOT stand for "New Fangled League", still has a rule that says that all positions (as in quarterback or linebacker) must wear a certain number on their jersey.
On April 5, 1973, a jersey-numbering system was adopted by the NFL where each position on the football field is given a range of numbers for each player at that position to choose from, however, there are a few players around the league who are exceptions to the rule. This chart explains which number ranges are assigned to each position.
1-9 Quarterbacks and Kickers
10-19 Quarterbacks, Receivers, and Kickers
20-49 Running Backs and Defensive Backs
50-59 Centers and Linebackers
60-79 Defensive Linemen and Offensive Linemen
80-89 Receivers and Tight Ends
90-99 Defensive Linemen and Linebackers
The NFL has a committee called "The Competition Committee", whose membership consists mostly, if not entirely, of coaches, and they are apparently in charge of any rule changes. They have a meeting scheduled for May 23, and Bush has requested to have an exception made in his case, allowing him to wear his familiar number 5.
I didn't mention that Bush has offered to pledge 25 percent of his proceeds from jersey sales to Hurricane Katrina relief . Players get 6 per cent of the amount for each of the jerseys with their name and number of them. Last year's number one seller was Randy Moss, who netted more than $1.5 million. If Bush's shirts are similarly hot, his donation to the Katrina fund (he plays for New Orleans, get it?) could be in the $400,000 range.
Indianapolis Colts' president Bill Polian insists that Bush's pledged generosity will not be a factor in whatever decision the committee makes.
"We can't look at it like it's about Reggie Bush," Polian says. "It's never about individuals. Otherwise, where would it stop? It's always about the rules."
Another player, Cleveland Browns center LeCharles Bentley has also requested an exception. He wants to wear jersey number 00, in honor of Hall of Fame center Jim Otto. Otto started his career before the 1973 uniform rule, as did Hall of Fame running backs Paul Hornung (#5), and Red Grange (#77) and Hall of Fame Quarterback Sammy Baugh (#33) .
My point is, if in the first 50 years of its existence, NFL players were allowed to wear whatever number they chose, why not return to allowing that practice?
A team could still follow the "assigned" numbering system, but if some "rebel" like Bush, for whatever reason, wants to wear a different number, what's the difference?
The NFL owners are one of the most controlling groups around. I can see limiting the touchdown celebrations, etc., but really, what's the harm with exceptions to the antiquated, restrictive numbering system?