For New Dallas Cowboys, Expectations Come With The Jersey


There’s much more than meets the eye as to how an NFL football player is assigned his jersey number. Typically, a new player is allowed to choose any available number designated by rule for the position he plays. For example, An offensive lineman can select any number between 50-79.

Below is a chart showing the NFL’s number designations by position.

What exactly is considered an “available” number in Dallas? It’s a bit more restrictive than simply a number not already in use.

The Cowboys are one of four teams (Oakland, Pittsburgh, Washington) with a no-retirement policy regarding jersey numbers.

More from The Landry Hat

However, there are sacred Cowboys numbers with special rules. Most numbers worn by players in the Ring of Honor are issued carefully, some not at all.

The Cowboys’ Ring of Honor players include #8 (Troy Aikman), #12 (Roger Staubach), #17 (Don Meredith), #20 (Mel Renfro), #22 (Bob Hayes and Emmitt Smith), #33 (Tony Dorsett), #43 (Don Perkins and Cliff Harris), #54 (Chuck Howley and Randy White), #55 (Lee Roy Jordan), #70 (Rayfield Wright), #73 (Larry Allen), #74 (Bob Lilly), #88 (Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin), and #94 (Charles Haley).

Of those 14 ROH jersey numbers, three are off-limits and haven’t seen the field since the last player retired…8, 12, and 22.  The rest make occasional appearances.


On the current team, three Ring of Honor numbers are worn by returning players from 2014. Rolando McClain (55), Zack Martin (70), and Mackenzy Bernadeau (73).

McClain was added in 2014 while previously wearing #55 in Oakland. Bernadeau was #73 in Carolina and also allowed to keep the number.

Martin wore #70 in college at Notre Dame, and given the green light to continue with his ROH jersey number as a rookie.

For 2015, two new free agency additions will be sporting ROH numbers. Running back Darren McFadden will keep his #20 worn in Oakland, and now carry Renfro’s torch.

Bruce Carter vacated Howley and White’s #54 when he left the team. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley will retain #54 from Minnesota, and represent past legends.

There are three ROH numbers being worn now that should vacate before the season. Meredith’s #17 is held by rookie receiver Nick Harwell.

Dorsett’s #33 is assigned to rookie cornerback Jason Wilson.  Lilly’s #74 is on the back of offensive tackle R.J. Dill.

This likely won’t be the case in September, as all are long-shots to make the team.


Past star players are highly respected in Dallas by close protection of their numbers’ legacy. Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin‘s #88 was absent from 2000 to 2009.

Owner Jerry Jones saw something special in Dez Bryant in 2010, and bestowed the honor upon him. The new #88 has proudly lived up to the expectations.

Last season he set the Cowboys single-season receiving touchdowns record with 16. Don’t worry, Bryant will be back on the field under a new contract soon.

The rookie fitting this Bryant-like criteria is defensive end Randy Gregory.  He’s been levied the same high expectations with the storied #94.

Both Charles Haley and DeMarcus Ware starred as #94. Between the two of them, the pair made twelve Pro Bowls in Dallas. Haley is in the Hall of Fame and Ware will be.

Ware is the Cowboys all-time sack leader with 117. Gregory has massive shoes to fill.

Rookie tackle La’el Collins has been issued #71, which belonged to the late, beloved Mark Tuinei.  “Tuey” was a two-time pro bowler on the 90’s championship teams.


Then there’s the return of special teams ace Danny McCray. McCray played with the Cowboys from 2010-2013. He spent last season with the Bears wearing #29.

McCray will switch numbers back to the #40 he wore in Dallas the first go-round. All Cowboys fans know that wearing #40 is nothing short of representing special teams legend Bill Bates.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention this year’s #13. Although rookie receiver Lucky Whitehead wanted #12 (which is off-limits), ending with #13 is poetic justice.

The marketing benefits are endless for the youngster. If Lucky #13 wins the kick returner job, he’ll be a household name from the overkill of broadcaster remarks.

Next: Cowboys Rookie Randy Gregory Using Whataburger to Beef Up