There are a number of “best Florida players at a certain jersey number” lists out there. I did one a while ago and GatorBait.net is doing a series. That’s typically the way we look at jersey numbers: who’s the best at each number? But this time around, One Eyed Willy and I decided to take a different approach: what are the greatest numbers?
We looked at the all-time roster (at least what’s available of it) and each put together a list of our top numbers. We tried to each have a balance between quality and quantity, but it wasn’t always easy. Each of us picked what we considered to be the best 15, scored those based on the standard reverse method (1 gets 15 points, 2 gets 14 points, etc.) and from it came this top 10 list. Enjoy and debate if you must. I’m sure Gator fans from different eras have very different opinions.
1. #7 (29 pts., 1 first-place vote – Willy) – To many Florida fans, Tebow may have taken the top spot in their hearts, but there’s a collection of us that have Danny Wuerffel slightly higher. Wuerffel was the Gators second Heisman Trophy recipient, but its first national championship quarterback. He will always be the first player that comes to mind when you think of the #7 jersey. John Reaves was a great quarterback in his day as well and Lorenzo Hampton, Jesse Palmer, and Cornelius Ingram also had their moments with the number. Looking ahead: #7 could strengthen its hold of the top spot if incoming freshman Ronald Powell becomes even half the player he’s expected to be.
2. #1 (28 pts., 1 first-place vote – TBG) – I have a soft spot for both Percy Harvin and Reggie Nelson so they may have swayed my vote, but they aren’t the only players that represented #1 well. Keiwan Ratliff was one of the nation’s top shutdown cornerbacks throughout his career (he holds the Florida single-season record for interceptions) and Tony George was a feared defensive back. Don’t forget about Jack Jackson who was the leading receiver and kick returner during two SEC championship seasons. Looking ahead: Janoris Jenkins has a chance to put his mark on the number with two more years of eligibility. He already has one good season under his belt with the number, although some may argue his season wearing #29 was his better as a Gator.
3. #22 (26 pts.) – You always have to start the discussion about #22 with Emmitt Smith. Without him, this number may still make the list, but wouldn’t be considered a top three candidate. Smith was one of the greatest to ever play at Florida. Along with Smith, a series of Jacksons wore the number with pride. Terry Jackson won a national title with the Gators while Willie Jackson Sr. and Willie Jackson Jr. both sported #22. John L. Williams and Steve Tannen also must be mentioned. Looking ahead: Matt Elam could give #22 a boost. A high-rated recruit, Elam has a chance to push the number into the top two with a good career.
T4. #15 (23 pts.) – #15 can thank Tim Tebow for getting the number to the top five. Without him, it’s highly unlikely it would make the list. Of course, Tebow’s not the only star to wear the number. Reidel Anthony was part of three SEC title teams and won a national championship wearing #15. He also set the SEC receiving touchdowns mark. Don’t forget about Dee Webb who improved as a cornerback over the course of his career. Looking ahead: good luck. It could be a while before Urban Meyer lets someone else touch #15.
T4. #21 (23 pts.) – Fred Taylor and Cris Collinsworth are the biggest names to wear #21. They alone would get the number on the list. And if we were looking at NFL accomplishments, neither would hurt their cause. Dexter McNabb and DeShawn Wynn contribute to the number’s solid history of running backs. The latest defensive player to wear it – Major Wright – definitely served it well. Looking ahead: we’re all hoping another Taylor – Fred’s son Kelvin Taylor – wears #21 for Florida in the future. For now, Emmanuel Moody has one last chance to truly make a name for himself.
T6. #5 (16 pts.) – A three-year starting cornerback, the Gators all-time leader in receptions, and an All-American receiver push #5 this high up the list. Joe Haden was the latest to wear it and you can’t say he didn’t wear it well. Andre Caldwell set the record for most career catches while wearing #5 throughout his entire career. Jacquez Green only wore #5 for his final two seasons, but they were his best. Another good #5 – Earnest Graham – became only the fifth Gator running back to ever rush for more than 3,000 career yards. Looking ahead: surprisingly enough Joe’s little brother – Jordan Haden – won’t start his career with his brother’s old number. Also surprising, either will Chris Dunkley. Dunkley was rumored to be wearing #5, but is listed at #27. If either switches to #5, they could help the number’s legacy.
T6. #33 (16 pts.) – Call #33 the running back club. Errict Rhett is Florida’s all-time leader in career attempts and yards and is third in rushing touchdowns. For good measure, Rhett also ranks fourth in receptions. Kestahn Moore, Ran Carthon, Tony Green, Tommy Durrance, and Larry Smith also wore #33. Only the defensive side of the ball, Teako Brown had good years with the number. Looking ahead: True freshman Mack Brown hopes to add to the number of running backs that have excelled in the #33 jersey.
8. #74 (15 pts.) – Yes, a number typically reserved for linemen makes the list. One player can be thanked for that – Jack Youngblood. Youngblood earned All-American honors during his final year at Florida and would go on to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Jason Odom was also an All-American #74 and was a member of the All-SEC team twice. Before Odom, was two-time first-team All-American offensive lineman Jeff Zimmerman. Looking ahead: Maurice Hurt currently wears #74 and has a chance to earn a starting spot in 2010.
9. #88 (14 pts.) – Similar to #74 above, #88 can thank one player for pushing it into the list. Wilber Marshall will forever be linked to Youngblood as one of the two greatest defensive Gators of all-time. At Florida, Marshall was a two-time Lombardi Award finalist and was named the National Defensive Player of the Year during his final season. Erron Kinney and Kirk Kirkpatrick both made their marks at #88 as starting tight ends. Back in the 1960s, Jim Yarbrough wore the number during his great Gator career. Looking ahead: Reserve tight end Michael McFarland wears the number now, but has some work to do to climb the depth chart.
10. #9 (13 pts.) – Shane Matthews will always be one of my favorite Gators because he’s one of the first I truly remember watching live. Matthews had quite the career and left Florida holding many of the school’s passing records. Louis Murphy and Darrell Jackson were both among the team’s top wide receivers during their stints with #9. Two defensive backs of recent history – Guss Scott and Anthone Lott – also served the number well. Looking ahead: Carl Moore has the number in 2010, but will only have one year left to do anything with it.
Those also receiving votes: #11 (9 pts.), #8 (8), #61 (6), #3 (4), #12 (4), #55 (4), #51 (1), #89 (1)