Freshman Jersey Number Day was actually yesterday. But now, at 10:53 pm on the following day, I finally have a chance to write about it. I feel like the moment has passed and the crowds have gone home, but FJND 2017 I shall write. Because numbers are so cool.
This year, with 25 freshmen and 10 walkons, there's just too many to go through name by name, number by number. It would take me several hours and I'll be asleep by then. If you want to see all of the numbers, click here. If you want to just hear some of the highlights, read on.
And the award for best Illini freshman number choice goes to......
Bobby Roundtree - #97
At the signing day press conference - mostly because Roundtree had just announced that he had chosen Illinois about 90 minutes before the presser - the coaches were all buzzing about Bobby Roundtree. When defensive line coach Mike Phair was asked about Roundtree, he excitedly asked the reporter if he had seen him on film yet. They think this kid will be a great weakside defensive end.
So what better than to put him in Simeon Rice's #97? You know how I feel about Simeon - if we were going to retire a third number besides 50 and 77 (we won't and shouldn't), I would say it should be 97 - but since it's not retired, putting Bobby Roundtree there is perfect. In a few years, hopefully he's our pass-rushing superstar.
But it's not just Roundtree's number choice that captures my fancy. Here are seven others that I love.
Actually, before I get to that, why do I "love" numbers? NO IDEA. Some of it, as explained above, is "one of my favorite players wore that number and I love seeing another potentially great player in that number". But some numbers just seem to fit. I can't explain it. I never liked Dawuane Smoot in the #91, but I'm a huge of Tre Watson wearing #33. Wide receiver Carmoni Green wearing the number 5? I don't like it - that needs to go to a tailback. Defensive tackle Jamal Milan #55? Awesome, and I cannot tell you why.
So with that in mind...
Bennett Williams #4
Williams is a little-known recruit out of California. Not really highly ranked, maybe a longshot to play, but a safety wearing #4 is perfection for me. So he goes #2 on my list.
Why #4 and safety? Because when I was in school, the two safeties were Antoine Patton (#8) and Ty Washington (#4). I loved Washington (go look up his forced fumble against Penn State in 1994 - I'm sure it's on the youtubes somewhere), so to see another safety in Washington's number makes me excited.
Deon Pate #98
Pate ninety-eight? I mean, come on. That's perfect. Pate had to have a number that ended with eight, and he's a defensive lineman, so 98 is the choice.
Shouldn't all players do this? Sophomore safety Stanley Green just switched out of the number 17 and into the 7. But wasn't 17 perfect? "Stanley Green seventeen" just rolls off the tongue. There's so many more. Henry McGrew 72 would be amazing, right?
What the hell am I even talking about right now?
Kendall Smith #17
Jersey number selection pro-tip: go for the current year. The team is likely to put together some kind of promotional campaign with a player wearing the jersey with the year number, and then it looks like you're the guy on the poster. Remember this poster in 2014 when we got the new uniforms? Suddenly, Eric Finney got to brag to all his friends that the team put him as the featured player on the poster.
You could also shoot for a future year, because most of the promotional material for that recruiting class (and even the mannequins they use to show off the jerseys on recruiting trips) will have that jersey year. So, all of the current recruits are getting Mikey Dudek promotional material (#18), and then the next year everyone will see Louis Dorsey (#19).
But hey, good work grabbing the #17 after Stanley Green left it behind, Kendall. You're the promotional guy this year.
(Here is where I fell asleep writing this post last night. Just flat-out nodded off at the keyboard. Please excuse any and all weirdness above.)
Ra'Von Bonner #21
This is similar to the Smith thing above. University President Timothy Killeen is 65 years old. Say he retires in the next few years (or, if it's anything like our last few presidents, say he only stays for a few more years). Well, if/when he leaves and they hire his replacement, guess what happens at the introductory press conference? That's right - they hand the new president a football jersey with the #21 because he/she would be the 21st UIUC President.
Remember Killeen holding up the Clayton Fejedelem jersey at his press conference? I mean, it wasn't a Fej jersey... but it was a Fej jersey. Good move by Bonner here. If he redshirts, that's five full years wearing the 21. Killeen probably stays longer than that (at least I hope he stays longer than that), but if not, Bonner is ready.
Tony Adams #6
I went to watch Adams in one of his early season high school games last year (before his ACL tear) and he was really, really impressive in that game. If it wasn't for the injury, I'd be thinking that Adams might have found a way to start as a freshman in the defensive backfield. He still might - he'll be a year post-surgery in September, so he might be getting close to 100%.
And for some reason, I like seeing the high ceiling freshmen get the single digit numbers. I feel similar about Ricky Smalling getting the #4 and Carmoni Green getting #5 (even though it should go to a running back). Freshmen are always the hope for the future, and I like seeing that hope tackling people while wearing a single digit.
There's no explanation for this. I cannot tell you why friendship bracelets were a thing, or why people watched Saved By The Bell. What's cool is cool, and Tony Adams in the 6 is cool.
Charlie Reinkemeyer #12
I don't know who Charlie Reinkemeyer is. Apparently he's a walkon quarterback who joined the team this summer. That's a good thing, given that we had to convert scholarship athlete Trenard Davis and walkon running back Cam Miller to quarterback because we didn't have enough QB's to hold practice. Walkon QB's are always welcome (#manberg).
And I love a walkon QB getting the number of last year's starting QB. Like, your the assistant to the assistant regional manager, and the assistant regional manager leaves and they put you in her office for the time being, and everyone thinks you're the assistant regional manager when you're just the assistant to the assistant regional manger.
Shoot your shot, Charlie Reinkemeyer. Wes Lunt left the #12 laying on the ground? Pick it up and put it on. Now go out there and fire bullets, kid.