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Gardner Minshew has some big shoes to fill by wearing Ryan Leaf’s No. 16

We cool with that? Better yet — how do you feel about retiring numbers in general?

Virginia Tech v East Carolina Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The Washington State Cougars have only officially retired two numbers: 7 and 14. The former was worn by one of the greatest football players ever, Mel Hein; the latter by Jack Thompson, godfather to the modern era of WSU quarterbacks.

Since then, though, there have been numbers that have been unofficially retired for a time. For more than 20 years, nobody has worn No. 91 — it was last worn by defensive tackle Leon Bender, a standout on the 1997 Pac-10 champs who died from a seizure shortly after being drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders. Additionally, nobody had worn Drew Bledsoe’s No. 11 until his son, John Bledsoe, arrived at WSU.

Another one was No. 16. That last worn by Ryan Leaf ... until a few years ago.

The first player to wear it following Leaf was defensive back Charleston White in 2013. Probably not coincidentally, Leaf began serving a seven-year sentence in December 2012 for stealing prescription drugs. Since then, fellow DBs Treshon Broughton and Grant Porter have each worn No. 16.

But no QB has worn 16 again ... until now: When graduate transfer Gardner Minshew steps onto the field today for his first practice, he’ll be the first QB to wear that number since Leaf stepped off the field on New Year’s Day 1998 in Pasadena.

So, first question: You cool with that?

I’m not real worked up about it, but I still don’t particularly like it. As a student from 1995-1999, Leaf holds a special place in my fandom. The closest thing I can think of to this is when Jerry Rice wore No. 80 during his five minutes with the Seattle Seahawks despite the number already having been retired in honor of Steve Largent. Not an earth-shattering thing, and it didn’t at all diminish what Largent accomplished but ... it was just kind of lame. It doesn’t seem like too much to me to at least not have another QB wearing No. 16, regardless of what has happened since 1997.

At any rate, this is almost certainly due to a numbers crunch: Minshew, as a QB, is limited to numbers under 20*, and the numbers under 20 available when the grad transfer arrived on campus this summer were 3, 7, 14 and 16. The first three are off limits, so 16 it is. This wasn’t a problem before pretty much every wide receiver wanted a quarterback number, but here we are.

*Yes, I know he could wear something higher. But c’mon.

So, here’s the second question: Should colleges even worry about retiring any numbers? With rosters so large, it’s actually quite difficult to set any numbers aside, as you can see from the Minshew situation. Or should they maybe just have a ring of honor kind of thing, where the player and his number are displayed prominently? (The Seahawks do this, retiring only the numbers of their hall of famers, but their rosters are considerably smaller — only 53 numbers are required.)

I’ll probably think this is less lame if Minshew wins the QB job and leads WSU to a Pac-12 North title. Stay tuned!


How do you feel about another QB wearing No. 16?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Dumb. Retire the number already.
    (48 votes)
  • 65%
    It’s fine.
    (327 votes)
  • 24%
    Why on earth does anyone care what number a player wears?
    (124 votes)
499 votes total Vote Now