Forgive me for beating a dead horse. I know this topic has been writing about and discussed in the comments section many-o-times. In fact, it was nearly three months ago this exact topic was brought up by one of the forty-fourers, Syracuse University's own Floyd Little, and was tossed to the wayside by the newest focal point, current running back and star Jerome Smith.
Despite the thanks, but no thanks, I am not willing to give up on the campaign to bring back Syracuse athletics' most historic number because it is clear, at this point -- after running for 118 yards with two touchdowns on 28 carries and being a key piece in Saturday's 20-3 victory over Maryland -- Smith deserves it and he shouldn't be ashamed to take it.
Why, today, am I taking a stand on this? It is because as I watched Smith do his thing against the Terrapins, I was thinking about how happy I am for him (because he such a great guy and I root hard for good guys) and if SU is serious about trying to make the next step with its football program it needs to reward people like Smith for his hard work and willingness to go the extra mile.
Not only should Smith be offered the No. 44 jersey next season, he should take it because, as he proves week in and week out, he is the example of the sacred number. Every future SU running back should strive to be like Smith, who is an exceptional leader, plays hard, stays out of trouble and does the little things outside of football that make a difference in the community.
Growing up, I had Rob Konrad and will always remember him not because of his abilities, but because he was my No. 44. Shouldn't Smith be some little SU fan's No. 44? Or better yet, a younger running backs role model?
Now, I understand why Smith, "don't need nothing to do with it," which is what he said this summer after the topic came up because Little talked about it with Smith in mind, but, in my opinion, you reach a point in your productive SU career and it is something one should do, if asked.
I am fine, if one feels he is not good enough to wear the number. But, Syracuse fans aren't comparing Smith's overall playing ability with Jim Brown, Ernie Davis or Floyd Little -- some of the greatest running backs to ever live. They are comparing his personal qualities, his passion and our appreciation of what he represents in the program -- we should all strive to be No. 44s.
I believe, Konrad said it best, earlier this summer, when asked about wearing the jersey:
"I ran on the field for the first time and I got a standing ovation. They weren't cheering for me, they were cheering for the number. From the start, (former head coach) Paul Pasqualoni made it clear I was carrying on the tradition, that I had to be a little cleaner, never be in trouble, carry on that tradition with honor.
It is time Syracuse University decided now is the time to bring back No. 44. It is time Smith took a look at himself, the fans in the stands at the Carrier Dome and accepted what we all know he deserves.