What’s in a number?

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We learned Saturday afternoon as the Bucs introduced prized WR free agent DeSean Jackson, that Jackson will in fact keep his former Redskins #11, while coming to his new team. The curious situation was that Buccaneer number had belonged to WR Adam Humphries during his last last two seasons.

So, how did this come about? Why didn’t Humphries hang on to the number? More on that, in a bit.

First, players jockeying for numbers with their new team isn’t knew. Famously, LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal came to the Orlando Magic of the NBA in 1992, but veteran player Terry Catledge refused to give up Shaq’s college number, 32. So, O’Neal instead took #33 that was available and made that famous in Orlando. Once Shaq signed with the Lakers, he couldn’t have Kareem’s 33 or Magic Johnson’s 32 because they were both retired, and he, then took #34.

The point is, star players and drama with their numbers is nothing new. And the stories even made their way to Hollywood.

As a fan of movies, we at F.F.I. remember the 1990’s drama flick “The Fan.” In that fictitious baseball movie, Wesley Snipes plays a premier baseball free agent coming from Atlanta to the San Francisco Giants, but he can’t have his old Braves number with his new team. That number belongs to Benecio Del Torro’s character, who is refusing to give it to the new big money teammate.

Snipes struggles as a free agent and believes that it’s because he doesn’t have his old number. Del Torro won’t give up the number and the movie sets into motion. We won’t ruin the end, but it involves THE Robert DeNiro playing a deranged fan (hence the movie title) who wants to help Snipes and help the Giants by getting the number for him. Go find it on Netflix, etc.

Now, back to the Bucs, Jackson originally wore #10 in his years with the Philadelphia Eagles, before being traded to NFC East rival Washington. But, #10 already belonged to top pick QB Robert Griffin III. So, Jackson instead took #11 for his seasons with the ‘Skins.

Humphries explained to the media on Saturday, that he got a call from Jackson about #11. And, after some good-natured back and forth with the new speed receiver, they have decided to have DeSean donate to a local Tampa Bay charity of both of their choices to commemorate the number switch.

By the way, this isn’t even the first time in recent Buccaneer history that a new prominent player wanted his same number that belonged already to a Buc. In 2007, free agent QB Jeff Garcia signed on in Tampa Bay and negotiated with then starting QB, Bruce Gradkowski, who had been wearing #7. Gradkowski took #5, as well as his backup role for the next two years in Tampa Bay.

We remember Bruce not being specific about what helped Garcia get #7, but we do know this: Gradkowski for Summer and Fall with a shiny high-end designer watch that he would joke helped in the “negotiations.”

So, what’s in a number?

Shaq, didn’t need it and made 33 and 34 famous on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

DeSean Jackson apparently wanted and needs it with the Bucs. Now, let’s see if he makes it famous starting this fall.

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