The NFL is expected to switch up its jersey number rules, allowing players from more positions to wear single-digit numbers. That group includes linebackers, which would let some players, like Dallas Cowboys standout Jaylon Smith, take up their old college jersey numbers.
The Smith move to No. 9, which he wore at Notre Dame and in high school, wouldn’t be without controversy, though. That number was last worn by Tony Romo in 2016, his final season before he retired to enter the CBS broadcast booth. Smith currently wears No. 54 with the Cowboys.
With the news of the expected change, Smith made it pretty clear how he felt. In an Instagram story, he shared a fan’s photoshop with the linebacker wearing his old college and high school number. “Know what type of time I’m on they let this rule pass,” Smith wrote in the post. He still has the number nine in his Instagram handle as well. Clearly, it means a lot to him.
The Dallas Cowboys haven’t retired Romo’s No. 9, but the fact that it hasn’t been handed out since his retirement is telling. The former Cowboys quarterback is a Jerry Jones-favorite, and there’s a chance the outspoken owner wouldn’t be thrilled just giving it out. Fans are pretty hotly debating whether or not Romo’s number should be up for grabs.
Cut him. Then, he can wore 9 in another NFL Team
9 is property of Tony Romo pic.twitter.com/5t2DTdQDFu
— CESARE (@jcesarmm) April 6, 2021
I refuse to have an opinion about Jaylon Smith wanting to change his jersey number.
He doesn't play the same position as Romo. The rule hasn't even passed. And it's, y'know, a jersey number. Surely there's more pressing stuff to talk about.
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) April 6, 2021
So @thejaylonsmith wanting to wear #9 is disrespectful to Romo, y’all do realize the #54 he wears now was worn by HOF Randy White. It’s just a number, but please don’t hold Romo in higher regard than White
— Tad Prescott (@86Prescott) April 6, 2021
I love Romo, but if you guys are telling me that he is the bar for nobody ever touching his number 9 jersey again….we might need to review how many numbers have exceeded that threshold and the Cowboys will need to switch to letters soon on the jerseys. #CmonMan
— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) April 6, 2021
Jaylon Smith wore 9 in college and high school. He would like to wear in the NFL.
And for you Romo truthers, just know that a greater Cowboys player than him wore 54.
33 has also been worn by so called lesser players. pic.twitter.com/8fowXNRHC1
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) April 6, 2021
Things are pretty starkly divided on the issue. Some don’t think that Tony Romo’s place in franchise history is so heralded that his number should be protected like a legendary player, while others want to see Smith walk for reasons that have nothing to do with him wanting No. 9.
The 25-year old linebacker was a Pro Bowler in 2019. This past season, he had a career high 155 tackles, and registered 1.5 sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. The Dallas Cowboys defense struggled mightily though, and the team finished a very disappointing 6-10.