A New Tradition

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Dave Doeren first noticed the badge on a Michigan player's jersey when he was an assistant at Wisconsin.

The badge, which referenced Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, was on the No. 21 jersey of a Wolverine.

"I first saw it when I was at Wisconsin and we played Michigan," said Doeren. "They had Desmond [Howard] and some of those guys [re-circulate] their numbers and put them back in.

"I just thought that was a unique way to not only honor their number, but every game they get to see someone wear their number with their name on it. I just thought it was unique."

A few weeks ago NC State announced that they would be doing the same for Russell Wilson and Mario Williams. Both players will have their numbers hung in Carter-Finley Stadium, but now instead of the number being permanently retired it can still be worn by a current Wolfpack player (along with a badge honoring Wilson and Williams).

"Going forward, anyone that gets to wear nine gets to honor Mario, and anyone who gets to honor Russell gets to wear sixteen," said Doeren. "Eventually it could be a positional deal, where a quarterback that plays for us wears that number, but right now we're just starting the thing."

The change was needed for the Wolfpack.

"We have eight numbers retired and over the last year we had all these double-digit guys because we can't use all the numbers," said Doeren. "There are great players we want to honor, but we can't keep losing numbers because pretty soon you won't have enough to field a team. I thought it was a really good way to get two things done... honor our great players and create a new tradition."

The question is, will the numbers already retired now be worn again?

"Some of our older guys obviously aren't still with us," Doeren said. "So, there's a lot of conversations we need to have on whether or not they want to recirculate. We'll honor either way with those guys."

Wilson will be in Raleigh at the 2014 Kay Yow Spring Game to have his jersey honored in Carter-Finley Stadium, but Williams will do his at a later date.

"I think it's great," said Doeren. "[Wilson] is so first class. He's done everything like you'd want any player to do... the right way. I've coached against him when I was at Northern so I know how good he is on the field, and everything I've heard about what he was like here, from both sports, is tremendous."

Doeren also knows it will have an impact on his football team.

"I'm really excited, not just for him and the honor he gets from the jersey, but also for our team to get a Super Bowl champion quarterback to come back. I think that's special."

Joining Wilson in Raleigh will be several former Wolpack players, including current NFL standouts like J.R. Sweezy, Nate Irving, and Jerricho Cotchery.

Doeren expects a tremendous turnout from the alumni.

"One of the things that makes NC State special is the way the alumni comes back," he said. "Our former players genuinely care about our fanbase. To have 400 or so former players back, Russell back, Sweezy... that means a lot.

"This is my fourth BCS conference now and our alumni comes back more than any place I've worked, and I've been at some really good schools with strong alumni. They come back and they support our team, and it means a lot to our current roster."

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