With a new NFL rule change, players will have far more jersey options than before. Veterans have to buy out the existing inventory of their old number to make a switch, but a few notable players are doing just that, including Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith.
After five years wearing the No. 54, the former Notre Dame star is going back to his old college jersey number, 9. That is notable because it was last worn by star quarterback Tony Romo, until his retirement a few years ago.
Smith is paying mid-six figures to do so, rather than waiting until 2022 for the ability to wear No. 9. It clearly means a lot to him, and he sought the Cowboys' and Romo's permission to do so.
“First and foremost, just a blessing and an honor to be able to carry on the '9' legacy," Smith said Tuesday, per ProFootballTalk. "Tony Romo did an amazing job of just being elite and putting together great success for the Cowboys franchise. As you know, new players coming in always getting an opportunity to sometimes carry on legacies, and that’s the opportunity the Jones family granted me with wearing No. 9. So it’s definitely a blessing. It’s been a part of my life."
"I’ve been wearing No. 9 since I was 9 years old, through Pee Wee, middle school, high school, college, All-American games, you name it. No. 9 is a part of me. It’s really just a blessing to be able to continue the legacy," Smith continued.
Jaylon Smith had one year of overlap with Romo in Dallas. He missed his rookie year in 2016, recovering from the devastating knee injury he suffered during the Fiesta Bowl at the end of his junior season. That year, Romo would get injury, ceding his spot to rookie Dak Prescott, who ran with the opportunity.
There are plenty of Dallas Cowboys fans who aren't thrilled with the news, believing that Romo's number should be retired by the team. Whether or not that comes down the line, Smith will have the opportunity to try and build on the QB's legacy with that number from the other side of the line of scrimmage.