On Friday, the Syracuse Orange announced that they’d be retiring No. 47 for career leading rusher Joe Morris. For the program, which has only retired five numbers to date, it’s a long time coming to honor Morris for all he was to the program in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Notably, Morris turned down wearing the famed No. 44 in favor of forging his own way without the comparisons that number automatically yields. The result was 4,299 yards and 25 touchdowns. When he finished his career in 1981, he’d passed Larry Csonka’s previous career mark by over 1,300 yards.
When we last spoke about Syracuse’s retired numbers situation, Morris was one of a handful of top names that came to mind. But SU finally getting around to retiring Morris’s 47 renews that conversation around the other potential honorees.
Thus far, the lone retired numbers are No. 5 (Donovan McNabb), No. 9 (Don McPherson), No. 39 (Larry Csonka) and No. 88 (John Mackey). No. 44 is technically not retired anymore, and also applies to multiple players.
If this is the first of several players to receive retirement ceremonies in upcoming years, who are the next names up? (in order of likelihood)
No. 45, WR Art Monk
He’s already a Pro Football Hall of Famer, so it’s a pretty easy sell to give him Syracuse football’s highest honor as well. And though the numbers may not hold a candle to the astronomical figures players can put up in Dino Babers’s offense, his dynamic offensive play was impressive back then. What he achieved as a pro also helps the case a bit.
No. 39, RB Walter Reyes
Since 39’s already retired for Csonka, it would be a worthwhile ceremony to commemorate the career and life of the late Reyes, who passed away this past November. Reyes is second to Morris in career rushing yards, single-game yards and single-season yards. He’s the all-time rushing touchdowns leader for the Orange, and the only player to score 20 in one season.
No. 54, DE Dwight Freeney
Freeney likely played his final downs as a pro this year, after a short-lived comeback with the Seahawks and Lions (where he still managed a few sacks, too). There’s no time set on when these things happen. But perhaps Syracuse would wait to for him to be named a Hall of Famer first? The alternative could be capitalizing on commemorating his excellent college and pro careers soon after they’ve officially ended (so something like next season).
No. 72, DE Tim Green
Another player that’s already collected external hall of fame honors (the College Football Hall for Green), so it’s an easy sell. Green is the school’s career leader in sacks (45.5) and was its most elite pass-rusher until Freeney came along. With no defensive players honored to date, Green or Freeney would make sense, and provide an idea of what players can strive for at Syracuse (the same way great Orange running backs do the same on the offensive side).
Does Monk seem the next-most likely candidate? Could Reyes skip ahead, or would Green/Freeney based on the defensive reasoning? There’s also the outside chance that the next honor after Morris isn’t a number a tall. Syracuse wore patches to commemorate Coach Dick MacPherson for all of 2017, and installed a field mark as well. Perhaps that becomes permanent, along with some sort of ceremony for the Hall of Famer’s family.