One of the most high profile recruits to commit to Syracuse over the past 10-15 years was four-star running back Robert Washington. One of the big reasons he was so interested in the Orange was the history behind the number 44 jersey and their all-time great running back tradition.
In 2005, the 44 uniform number was officially retired. This was a topic of heated debate amongst Syracuse football fans over the subsequent decade.
Washington has been a case study in the number’s power, as he has openly spoke highly of its historical significance and potential to wear the jersey when he comes to Syracuse.
On Tuesday, that debate was put to rest when the university officially restored the number to the football program.
”My immediate reaction when I first saw they unretired 44 was it’s a great day to be an Orange,” Washington said. “Great day to be a Syracuse Orange. It’s a great day for the Syracuse program and the future of the program. When you bring back a number like 44 that represents so much more than a player, it’s very special.”
The Syracuse fans in support of bringing 44 back have been quite vocal on social media. Their support of him and the restore 44 movement have caught Washington’s attention throughout his recruitment.
”It’s amazing because when you’re a recruit, the fans are what make recruiting process so special,” he said. “Fans can change your opinion about so many things. The coaches do a great job and they have very important roles. But the fans, that’s when they create an added something for you.
”They make you really think about their school. The fans behind me, it’s amazing. I’m excited. It makes you feel special as a recruit.”
Yes Washington understands the historical significance of the 44 jersey for running backs at Syracuse. Yes Washington wants to be the one who officially brings it back. That said, he understands it is not something that should just be handed to him.
”As soon as they brought it back, I knew whoever they give it to and whoever earns the right, it’s a number that has to be earned,” Washington said. “It’s something you have to earn and aren’t just given. It’s special. It’s more than just you running for 1,000 yards. You have to be a good person, a good player, a good student, have character and everything.
”It’s definitely something so special. It’s definitely a number you have to earn. It’s coming down out of the rafters, but it has to be given to a player that has to earn it. If it’s not me and someone else earns it, then that’s the right person for it.”
Should Washington be the chosen one to don 44 once again, it would have enormous meaning to the four-star running back.
”It would be amazing if I’m the one who gets the number,” Washington said. “I would feel so blessed and so thankful at the same time because I watched Syracuse movies. I watched ‘The Express,’ I watched all the different documentaries on Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. The number, what it represents as a whole, and they were some special players.
”Obviously, Jim Brown was the Heisman candidate and should’ve won it. Ernie Davis actually won it the year after and Floyd came the year after. So it’s definitely a very, very special number. It’s legendary number so if you have it donned on you, it makes you feel special as well.”