The greatest of all time will forever be associated with certain numbers, like Michael Jordan and the No. 23. In the NFL, uniform numbers take on extra significance. Players can only choose from a specific set of numbers, depending on their position. As a result, many star NFL players end up wearing the same number.
So how do uniforms affect a player’s long-term legacy? You’ll better understand when you learn about the most famous NFL uniform numbers of all time.
Why are uniform numbers so important in the NFL?
Uniform numbers serve many purposes. They make it easier for coaches, commentators, and fans to distinguish players on a crowded field. Even if you can’t associate a specific player with a uniform number, you can use that information to determine which position they play.
In other words, certain numbers are restricted to particular positions. The original guidelines laid out in 1973 describe it well: Nos. 1-19 are reserved for quarterbacks, punters, and kickers; 20-49 designate running and defensive backs; 50-59 are for centers; 60-69 indicate defensive and offensive linemen; 80-89 are for receivers and tight ends. And 90-99 go to defensive linemen and linebackers.
These stringent guidelines relaxed a bit in recent years. In 2004, tight ends and wide receivers were allowed to claim numbers from 10-19. In 2010, meanwhile, defensive linemen received permission to also choose from 50-59. NFL uniform numbers have also experienced trends. For instance, few wide receivers today wear uniform numbers in the 80s, reports The Ringer.
The most famous NFL uniform number: No. 12
While many popular numbers adorn NFL players’ jerseys, there’s no doubt behind the most famous number. It’s No. 12. Reserved for quarterbacks, some of the greatest NFL players of all time have chosen this number. Of today’s superstar quarterbacks, both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers wear No. 12.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many NFL legends dating back to the earliest days of football have donned No. 12. The list includes Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Ken Stabler, Bob Griese, and Joe Namath. Simply put, any quarterback who aspires to NFL greatness has to give serious thought to donning No. 12.
Some notable runners-up
While No. 12 may be the undisputed king of the NFL, it’s far from the only legendary number. Take No. 80, for instance, a historically popular number among wide receivers. Let’s start with the greatest to ever play the position: Jerry Rice. Other notable No. 80s include Cris Carter, Steve Largent, Kellen Winslow, and James Lofton.
Another perennial favorite is No. 55, a linebacker number. The double five graced the jerseys of greats like Junior Seau, Terrell Suggs, Derrick Brooks, and Lee Roy Jordan. Move over to running backs, and few uniform numbers have the clout of No. 32, used by everybody from Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson to Franco Harris and Marcus Allen.
It’s also worth pointing out that, while No. 12 may be the most famous NFL uniform number of all time, it’s not the only one. A surprising number of legendary quarterbacks chose to wear No. 7, including John Elway, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Theismann, Michael Vick, and even Colin Kaepernick.
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