Chris Carlson put together a pretty cool referendum from a bunch of guys who have worn the No. 44 for the Syracuse Orange football team. It's a cool cross-reference of guys who are well-known by the number and guys who'd rather forget they'd ever worn it. The discussion also includes the opinions of some folks who didn't wear the number but are associated with SU football, like Coach Shafer, who gave the same diplomatic answer Doug Marrone gave five years ago.
Something that stood out for me was these two unrelated points of discussion including Floyd Little and Jerome Smith:
Little (1964-66): I'd like to see it back if we get a player of the Jerome Smith-level that proves themselves. ... He's a different kind of guy. You need a guy, a guy like a George Morris II might be interested. A guy that's established like Jerome and with his personality, he might not want to.
Jerome Smith (running back): Forty-four, that's a tough number. I'm good. I don't need that. Let that stay on top of the Dome. I don't need nothing to do with it.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised Smith was so against the idea of wearing 44. I always assumed he wore 45 because it was the closest thing. But perhaps at this point in his career, he's got his own identity anyway.
As for Morris II, he seems slightly more receptive to the idea but still not interested. "To be honest, I'd rather keep my number and grow with that."
It does drive home something that a lot of people who are against reinstating 44 or don't care about 44 say...that the players don't want to wear it. It's too much pressure. It's too much history.
But then a question comes to mind...
Why are Syracuse Lacrosse players falling over one another for the right to wear No. 22 while Syracuse Football players seem to want to run from 44?
Sure, No. 22 doesn't have the weight of No. 44 in terms of historical significance. But you could make the argument the players who wore 22 were "better" than the ones who wore 44, in terms of their sport and statistics. The bar is actually higher. But, perhaps, the perceived pressure is not.
I still have hopes someone will don the jersey soon. I'm not against the idea of a four/five-star recruit coming to Syracuse and demanding the number. I'd find that refreshing, to be honest. But if we wanted to withhold it for a proven junior/senior, that's cool too. 44 is our "college football thing." It's our 12th Man or Howard's Rock or whatever else you can think of. It deserves to be carried on and that means someone's gonna have to wear it.