On top of being a pretty phenomenal swimmer, apparently, Rob Konrad was the last Syracuse football player to wear the number 44. That was all the way back in 1998, 17 years ago, and seven years before the number was officially retired by Syracuse University and the athletic department. We respect the legacy that Konrad carried on wearing it, and the "cool factor" of him being the last guy to do so. But seriously --
Who could've worn 44 after him?
Keeping in mind that a) the football team probably could've given the number out from 1999-2005 if they'd wanted to, b) we're only looking at running backs, and c) this is all based on players who proved themselves worthy of the number before it was hypothetically handed to them... our list would probably include:
Dee Brown (2000)
We start off with a player whose merits could certainly be debated, but rushing for nearly 750 yards in a split backfield in 1999 was enough to include him here on the promise of what could be. So what was? Well, in 2000 (his hypothetical 44 here), the Orangemen's starting back topped 1,000 yards on the ground to go with 11 total touchdowns. Not legendary figures by any means, but serviceable -- and certainly not a disservice to the number he would've potentially worn.
James Mungro (2001)
Nearly 800 yards on the ground as Brown's back-up in 2000 earns Mungro the nod the following year, and boy did he deliver. Mungro's 2001 season is pretty impressive for a Syracuse back (or anyone, really), yet is oft-forgotten because he never got to wear that number (even though DOCTOR Gross had yet to retire it from us). If he'd amassed those 1,170 yards and 15 total touchdowns with 44 on his back? Doubt you forget that any time soon.
Walter Reyes (2003-04)
There were no hints about Reyes's 2002 outburst in production. Otherwise, his stunning 1,135-yard and 17-touchdown performance would've probably entered the 44 pantheon along with the subsequent two seasons of success he recorded on the Hill. But with 2002 as a precedent, he then proceeded to top those numbers. His 2003 was other-worldly: over 1,700 total yards and 21 (!!!) scores. In 2004, he came back down to earth but still managed 800 yards and seven more TDs. Reyes's career outputs (especially 2002 and 2003) are some of the more astounding stat lines you'll see in the SU record books. And yet... no 44.
Damien Rhodes (2005)
Rhodes's emergence in Reyes's final year set the stage for him to grab the 44 baton rather quickly, in this, the first football season when it was officially retired. For a miserable 1-10 Orange team, he still managed 900 yards and seven touchdowns, but this could potentially be seen as a dud in the eyes of 44 traditionalists. Not because Rhodes couldn't live up. But because the worst team in Syracuse football history (probably) couldn't get its act together to support him.
Delone Carter (2010)
After a decent-sized 44 hiatus (five years), Carter gets it in his final season following a 1,000-yard and 11-touchdown output in 2009. Come 2010 -- Syracuse's first bowl trip in six years -- Carter's rushing prowess led the way for an offense that went hot and cold all season. Carter racked up over 1,200 rushing yards and nine scores, putting a fitting exclamation point on a productive college career.
Jerome Smith (2013)
Sure, Smith wanted nothing to do with 44 back in the summer of 2013. But we don't live in a world where that number was retired, so chances are he's a lot more comfortable when the offer comes around. Nearly 1,200 yards in 2012 made him one of the top returning rushers in the ACC for 2013, and an exciting offensive leader for Orange fans thrilled to watch his bruising style. He fell a bit short of those figures in his last year while sharing the running back gig with Prince-Tyson Gulley, but 900 yards and 12 touchdowns is nothing to be ashamed of.
We can debate the above, and I'm sure you'll want to. We'd also be remiss to leave out the "honorable mentions" here -- for players who were really on the fence. This is the part where you start making comparisons between the players highlighted earlier and any of these three: Curtis Brinkley (2007/2008), Antwon Bailey (2011) and Prince-Tyson Gulley (2014).
But what do you think? Do all of these players deserve hindsight consideration, or are they all stretches in comparison to those that made 44 so famous for Syracuse backs to begin with? And further, does the virtual success of most of these guys make the "earn it first" argument for us (or me)? Share your thoughts and DOCTOR Gross shade below.