Jersey Tales: Redskins players reveal the inspiration behind numbers they wear

For some, the two digits on their chest have deep meaning. Others were assigned a number, and haven't yet grown to love it.

Published on December 22, 2015

Jersey numbers were designed to distinguish players and position groups, but over the years, for athletes and their fans, the numbers have become so much more than that. For many players, numbers represent their identity, and for some, their cape. Without the right number, they just don’t feel right, and they need that to play well. 

“I’m all about, ‘You look good, you feel good; You feel good, you play good,’ ” running back Chris Thompson said. “I’m all about that. I know it ain’t all about that, but that's what I believe in my mind.”

Fans identify with jersey numbers, just as they do their favorite players’ names. Years after those players move on, and new players inherit those numbers, fans still think of their favorites.

But jersey numbers become memorable to outsiders when the player wearing it performs.

“The key is how you play in the number,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “It’d be fun to play well enough so you make the No. 8 synonymous with you. If you don’t, then it’s just another number. For it to become a cape, you've got to play well.”

For some players, selecting a jersey number is something they have put much thought into. There could be sentimental value, superstition or symbolism behind the choice. Others just took whatever was given to them, and then grew into the number.

So, what's in a number? Each player on the Redskins’ 53-man roster, and some on injured reserve, shares the story behind his jersey number in his own words:

3Hopkinscared

3 - K Dustin Hopkins

“It was a handful of numbers left, and I always liked 3. . . . I saw the list and said, ‘Three is definitely what I’m going with.’ It’s a good, Biblical number I’ve always liked.”


5Waycard

5 - P Tress Way

“It was the number they gave me when I walked through the door. I didn’t choose it. But No. 5 was cool with me. I’m just glad to be here.”

8 - QB Kirk Cousins

“I wore it starting in eighth grade and wore it all through high school, and as luck would have it, I got to Michigan State and the equipment guy said, ‘I’m just going to put you in No. 8.’ In college, there's a hundred guys on the team, so the fact that your number is available is kind of rare. I was lucky, and kept it in college, then when I got drafted here, Rex [Grossman] had 8, and I got a text from the equipment guy, Brad Berlin, saying,‘You can have 2, 5 or 12.’ This was 10 minutes after I got drafted. I texted him back saying, 'I’ll take 12.’ My dad wore 12 in flag football when I was a kid, and when he was in church leagues. I thought that was kind of cool to be able to wear that. But when Rex left, I wasn’t planning on changing, but they picked up Andre Roberts, and he wanted 12, and he made a donation to my football camp back home, and I gave him 12 and I went with 8. If I had my druthers, for the rest of my career, I’d just as soon stick with 8. In 2012, I ended up being the eighth quarterback taken in the draft, and I never thought of that. But going forward, I feel like it’s a reminder of where you came from.”


10Griffincard

BY THE NUMBERS

3
Single-digit jersey numbers

50
Double-digit jersey numbers

12
Times the No. 1 appears

10
Times the No. 2 appears

11
Times the No. 3 appears

8
Times the No. 4 appears

10
Times the No. 5 appears

13
Times the No. 6 appears.

12
Times the No. 7 appears

12
Times the No. 8 appears

15
Times the No. 9 appears.

10 - QB Robert Griffin III

“There’s two stories. One is my high school coach gave it to me because it was his son’s number the year before. I was the backup. When I came back the next year, everyone already knew me as No. 10, so I just kept it. And, it’s the complete number in the Bible, so that’s another reason why I wear it.”


11Jacksoncard

11 - WR DeSean Jackson

“I was 10 in Philly, and in college I was 1, so put them together. When I came here, Robert had No. 10, so I just went with 1 and 1. [Griffin] and I talked about [a deal for No. 10] a little bit when I got here, but there was just too much money invested in that number, so I went with 1 and 1.”


14Grantcard

14 - WR Ryan Grant

“I was like, 2014, if I get drafted, 14 will be my jersey number. [I was] 3 in college, 3 in high school. [In the NFL], kickers and quarterbacks only [wear that number]. So, I just went with the year I was drafted.”


16McCoycard

16 - QB Colt McCoy

“I wore 12 all through college and at Cleveland, and Andre Roberts was 12 [here]. There are so many numbers that are retired here, that my options were basically 16 and 18, I think. But, to be honest, there was a guy that played at [the University of Texas] a long time ago named James Street, and he went 22-0 as a starter, and he passed away a few years ago, and suddenly. He wore 16, so that was the first thing in my mind as soon as I saw 16. He was just such a cool guy, lived in Austin and was well respected. I just decided to go with that.”


19Rosscard

19 - WR Rashad Ross

“They gave it to me. I was No. 19 in junior college, but that’s it. I was 15 [at Arizona State], but I just stuck with 19.”


20Johnsoncard

20 - SS Jeron Johnson

“They just gave it to me. I wanted 23 when I got here, but O.G. [DeAngelo Hall] got it.”


22Everettcard

22 - CB Deshazor Everett

“It’s the number they gave me when I got here when I was cut from Tampa. I got here later than the other guys and I had to really work to keep my spot, and so 22 is in my heart. Deuce-deuce, man. I try to rock it and show people they’ve got to watch out for 22, even if it's on special teams. I try to work hard so people know when 22 comes into the game, he’s going to give it his all.”

23 - CB DeAngelo Hall

“I guess when I went to Oakland, me and Nnamdi Asomugha had talked about switching and me getting 21 [which I wore in Atlanta], but it didn’t work out. The next closest number for me was 23. I had a guy named Kevin Mathis when I was in Atlanta - older guy, who had played with Dallas and Atlanta, and he taught me so much. So, 23 was kind of a tribute to him, and it just kind of stuck.”


25Thompson

25 - RB Chris Thompson

“Reggie Bush, honestly. He was my favorite college player, and he was 25 for his first few years in the NFL, so I said, whenever I got to the league and I got a chance to pick a number, I was going to wear 25.”


26Breelandcard

26 - CB Bashaud Breeland

“It was just the number they gave me. I was 17 my whole career, high school and college. But they gave me 26 here, and it’s working out. Kinda cool to do something else.”


30 - CB Kyshoen Jarrett

“They gave it to me. I like it now.”


31Jonescard

31 - RB Matt Jones

“I only had two options when I came: 30 and 31. But I just liked how 31 looked. Once I put it on, I decided 'Yeah, I'll keep it.’ ”


35Phillipscard

35 - CB Dashaun Phillips

“To tell you the truth, it was [my] first number in high school. I wore 48 when they first signed me to the practice squad. Then, when I got called up to the 53, I saw 35 and picked it. I didn’t even realize it at first, but then I thought about it, and yeah, first number I wore in high school. Funny how things work.”


36Young

36 - FB Darrel Young

“When a player passes away, he becomes everyone’s favorite, and Sean Taylor had passed away. His first number was 36. My choice I was given was either 32 or 36 and maybe a couple numbers in the 40s, and I said if I could be half the player Sean was someday in my career, then, hey. It was just something special for me. I wore a Sean Taylor wristband until it broke in 2012. That was just something special for me.”


38Goldsoncard

38 - FS Dashon Goldson

“They gave it to me my rookie year in San Fran and I just took it and said I was going to take it and make a name for it. I never did think of changing it. Now I’m seeing it everywhere.”


39Thomas

39 - RB Pierre Thomas

“Just the number that was assigned.” 


41Blackmon

41 - CB Will Blackmon

“I hate it. Next question. I was like, ‘This is all they got, but hey, it’s a job.’ But no. I did not select 41. I actually threw up when I saw 41. But, I’ve just got to make it work, man. In Seattle, I wore 21, which is the prime cornerback number, even though it’s not a prime number. Twenty-seven was my number for a while. But here, my options were 41 or higher.”

46 - RB Alfred Morris

“No real story. My number was always 32, but when I got here, they just gave 46 to me. [Cornerback] Josh Wilson had 32 when I first got here, but when the season started he changed it [to 26], but I didn't really bother trying to change.”


47Dunbar

47 - CB Quinton Dunbar

“I just like 47. I think it sticks out. It's kind of odd. Not a lot of people wear 47, so I just wanted to make a name for myself.”


51Compton

51 - ILB Will Compton

“When I got recruited to Nebraska, Bo Pelini had coached Barrett Ruud, who had gone on to the NFL, and he said to me, ‘You’re going to be my next Barrett Ruud,’ and so, he gave me 51 like Barrett Ruud. He would always come back during his offseasons and work out with us and mentor me and teach me how to watch film, and we still keep in touch a lot still today.”


52Robinson

52 - ILB Keenan Robinson

“They gave it to me when I got here. I was No. 1 in college. So, going from 1 to 50s, I didn’t have a preference and wasn’t disappointed, because I knew I’d have to switch anyway.”


54Foster

54 - ILB Mason Foster

“That’s the one they gave me when I got here. But I did like it when they gave it to me, because that was the first number I ever wore in Pop Warner football. I was a center. So, I wasn’t mad about that at all when I got here and got it.”

56Riley

56 - ILB Perry Riley Jr.

“They gave it to me in college. I didn’t want it at first, but stuck with it. Got here, and was like, well, I’m 56. Had 53 at first, but wanted to continue the tradition. It’s a great linebacker number, so figured, I might as well stick with it.”


57Sundberg

57 - LS Nick Sundberg

“They gave it to me when I got here. It was fine with me. In college I wore 68. Worst number on the team. That is the fattest number on the team. But I was a walk-on and the last guy on the roster, so they gave it to me, and it was from some lineman that had graduated, like 3XL. But, I ended up making the team and wore it four years. But, didn’t matter here. Just wanted out of the 60s.”


59Fields

59 - LB Carlos Fields

“No story. They just gave it to me. I didn’t even care. I'm just glad to be here. First year, from [a historically black college], they could’ve given me anything. They could’ve given me 100 and I would’ve been happy. Just glad to be here.”


60Puente

60 - C Brian de la Puente

“I’ve had 60 in the past, and that’s basically how it’s been. I didn’t ask for it. But I like having the same number.”


61Long

61 - G Spencer Long

“Just what I always had. They gave it to me in college. I was 60 when I first got here [last year], because Kevin Kowalski had 61. I didn’t really like the 60. It’s just too wide. I feel like 61 is a little more slimming.”


64Golston

64 - DE Kedric Golston

“It was the number they gave me when I got here [in 2006]. . . . When I made the roster, it was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t want to rock the boat or anything. Just keep my nose down, and be on the team.”


67LeRibeus

67 - C Josh LeRibeus

“I was 77 in college, and I got here, and I was 67, and that was it. I got to my locker and 67 was sitting there. I don't think it looks bad.”


68Compton

68 - T/TE Tom Compton

“It’s what was given to me. In college, I wore 76, and when I got here, some D-lineman had 76, so they gave it to me, and I said,‘Okay, 68.’ ”

71 - T Trent Williams

“There were two factors in it, but the most influential was, once I figured out I would be playing left tackle for good, you know, when I got to high school, I didn’t know much about the position. I was just 14, 15. So, I watched a lot of football and wanted to learn who the best left tackle was in the league. I happened to watch a Seattle Seahawks game and in pre-game introductions, the TV announcer said,‘Walter Jones, this is hands down one of the best left tackles in the league.’ And I said, ‘Oh, okay!’ I started keeping up with him for a few weeks, and I noticed he wasn’t 6-8 like Jonathan Ogden or Orlando Pace.

All those guys were so huge, and I was only scraping about 6 feet around then. I was like, ‘Well, he’s only 6-5 and performing at the highest level,’ and that gave me hope that maybe I could make it. And I kept keeping up with him, and I saw how athletic he was and good with his footwork, and I was like, man, we just had so many similarities with the athletic abilities we possessed. And I was always No. 70 because my big brother was No. 70, but I was like,‘You know what? This is a chance to gain my own identity and also take after the guy that the guy that I feel like influenced me in playing the position.’

That’s where 71 came about and I haven’t got off it yet. I even have it tattooed big as day on my thigh. So, I really can’t change it. When I first came here [in 2010], I was 72 for the whole preseason. I wanted to get 71 from Mike Williams, but he was a vet, I was a rookie, and he wanted astronomical dollars for it. I was like, ‘Damn. I’m stuck in between.’ I’m kind of superstitions and I was kind of scared because I felt like I really needed that number to play.

But, I went with it, and he ended up getting blood clots and put on IR, and when they put him on IR, I got 71, and so I felt like it was meant to have it. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have gotten desperate and decided to buy it from Mike, but it worked out that I didn’t have to.”


73Kearse

73 - DT Frank Kearse

“They just gave it to me. I’ve worn all kinds of numbers. Nothing special.”


74Kouandjio

74 - G Arie Kouandjio

“They gave me the option, and I liked it. It was some 70 numbers and some 60s. I just liked that it was in the 70s. I have a left tackle at ’Bama right now, Cam Robinson, and he was 74 and he did good his first year, so I figured it was a good number. . . . I wore 77 in college, but I wasn’t trying to buy that from [now-injured guard] Shawn Lauvao.”


75Scherff

75 - G Brandon Scherff

“Just what they gave me. I was 68 in college. I was a quarterback in high school. I was 10. But 75, what they gave me. It was 75 or 62.”


76Moses

76 - T Morgan Moses

“Just the number they gave me!”


79Nsekhe

79 - T Ty Nsekhe

“When I first got here, in February, I was 72 that week. Then they cut me and brought me back, and I was 79. I kept it for some sentimental value because I happened to be 79 in high school. Seventy-nine was the last number before the skill numbers. So, I always consider myself, ‘Big Skill.’ ”


80Crowder

80 - WR Jamison Crowder

“When I was really young, I was a big Jerry Rice fan. My dad - they had bought me like two or three Jerry Rice jerseys. Once I got to college, I was No. 3, and high school, I was No. 6. When I got here, it was a small selection to choose from. And I chose 80 pretty much because I loved Jerry Rice.”


83 - TE Alex Smith

“It’s a tight end number with my lucky number, 3. A family member said 8 means completion and 3 means trinity.”


86Reed

86 - TE Jordan Reed

“That’s just the number they gave me my rookie year, and it just stuck. It’s good. I wore 11 in college and my whole career. But 86, I like it. It sticks.”


87Hamm

87 - TE Je’Ron Hamm

“My college number was 86, but of course, that’s J-Reed's, so that was just the number I got. . . . But, since I got here, I’ve been learning tight end in that number, and so, since I was a receiver in 86 [at Louisiana-Monroe], now 87 represents the new challenge.”

88 - WR Pierre Garcon

“I originally wanted another number coming here, but I went with what was available. Also helps that my birthday is August 8th. Wore 85 in Indy because it was the only 80s number that was available. Eighties is always what I identify receivers as. Nowadays, though, they changed the rules. But growing up, Michael Irvin was doing his thing, Jerry Rice was doing his thing, Randy Moss and Marvin [Harrison] were doing their thing, too. That’s when I really first understood football. So, I guess the Michael Irvin jersey was the most popular growing up. Worked out I wear 88.”


91Kerrigan

91 - OLB Ryan Kerrigan

“Why 91? When I first got here, I was given 53, and I didn’t want that number, and so once someone got released, and 91 came available, I went with that. I just really didn’t want 53. It was just - it looked funny on me. So, once a 90s number became available, I jumped on it. I forget who had it at the start of camp. I wore 94 in college, but [defensive end] Adam Carriker had it here. And I wore 91 in the Senior Bowl, so it was cool.”


92Baker

92 - DE Chris Baker

“When I got here [in 2011], this was the number they gave me. And it was kind of funny, because when I got here it was after Haynesworth, so everyone was like, ‘Oh, you got the lazy guy’s number.’ But I was determined to make this number good again, so I took it and ran with it. Now it’s become a good number again.”


93Murphy

93 - OLB Trent Murphy

“When I was a freshman in high school, I got moved up to varsity and my head coach handed me that jersey. I’ve had it ever since. So far, both Stanford and here, it was available, so I haven’t had any problems getting it. I think it means more to my family and friends. It means so much to them. The name on the back of my jersey and what I represent means a lot to me. The number isn’t really as symbolic. But for my family, the number, every shirt they own has 93 on it, so they would be just [ticked] if I had gotten a different number.”


94Smith

94 - OLB Preston Smith

“No story. I couldn’t get No. 91 because Ryan had it, so, I was stuck with 94. . . . I had a choice between 50-something. It wasn’t a good number. But I like 94 because I look up to DeMarcus Ware. So, I was like, ‘Ninety-four. Yeah.’ ”


96Bates

96 - OLB Houston Bates

“That’s what I started with in rookie minicamp for tryouts. I went with 45 in the preseason, but I got 96 back in Week 1. They picked it for me.”


97Hatcher

97 - DE Jason Hatcher

“With the Cowboys, what they do, they give you jersey numbers based on the past. La’Roi Glover was the last guy that wore 97. Ninety-four they gave to [DeMarcus] Ware because of Charles Haley. I think, if they see something in you, they give you the number. It was in my locker when I got there. I was like,‘Ninety-seven? That’s the number La’Roi had, and he’s one of the greatest. Why’d they give that to me?’ I had wanted 98, because that’s the year my mom died. But I just rolled with it, and it grew on me.”


98Knighton

98 - DT Terrance Knighton

“The reason why I wear No. 98 is because I gave up 94 in Denver for DeMarcus Ware. When I got here, I stuck with 98. I wore 94 in Denver my first year, I wore 92 in college because of Reggie White, who I think is the best defensive lineman to ever play. Reggie White. That’s really the number I wanted. I wore 96 the year I got drafted (2009 by Jacksonville). But as long as I’m in the 90s, I’m cool.”


99JeanFrancois

99 - DE Ricky Jean Francois

“I was rocking 95 when I was in San Fran. It was my cousin, Bryan Pata, who was murdered at University of Miami [in 2006]. It was his number. But then, when I went to Indy, I noticed that most famous D-linemen, a lot of them wear 99. I went to it and once I put it on, I couldn’t take it off. I had some people that tried to get that number up out of me here, but I look even better in 99 here. So, I can’t come up out of this jersey. I love that number. No matter what. It was good in Indy, looked cool. But in these colors here, 99 looks perfect. That's me right there. Can’t get no higher than 99. They ask, ‘How you doing?’ All I gotta say is, ‘Just check my jersey. Just one percent off of a hundred.’ ”

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