In his first few seasons, Ezekiel Elliott has firmly established himself as one of the game’s elite talents. Elliott has ingrained himself as a primary factor in the Dallas Cowboys‘ offense, which has seen him put forth highly productive campaigns. Through it all, he has worn No. 21, which he has a unique reason for the selection.
Ezekiel Elliott’s impressive NFL career
Since entering the NFL as the fourth overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft, Ezekiel Elliott quickly pushed way into stardom.
Elliott became the centerpiece of the Cowboys’ offensive game plan behind his elite ability in the running game. Through his first five four seasons, he earned three Pro Bowl selections, a First-Team All-Pro nod, a Second-Team All-Pro selection, and two rushing yard titles.
The Ohio State product has become the definition of a workhorse back behind his dual-threat ability. He has tallied north of 1,000 rushing yards three times, which he’s well on pace to pass that mark in the 2020 campaign. Elliott has been the model of consistency at the position that has helped him earn his then-historic six-year, $90 million extension last year.
He also recently became one of five players to reach 45 rushing touchdowns and 10 receiving touchdowns in his first five seasons. His 92.6 career rushing yards per game are fourth all-time behind Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Terrell Davis.
Elliott’s status in the league is well established as he has an opportunity to put together a career that could give him a strong case for a Hall of Fame bid.
Why Ezekiel Elliott chose to wear No. 21
Ezekiel Elliott’s first four-plus seasons in the league have seen him don No. 21 with the Cowboys.
His selection was a switch up from his collegiate days at Ohio State, where he wore No. 15. The reason for the number switch was solely due to the NFL rules that only allow quarterbacks can wear between 1-19 while wide receivers can dip between 10-19. Meanwhile, running backs can only choose from the ranges of 20-49.
All that guided Elliott to select No. 21, which he revealed before his rookie season that he chose it because it looks like 15 reversed in the mirror. There is some cleverness to the choice that still, in some ways, allows him to feel connected to his previous number.
Before Elliott, Joseph Randle wore No. 21 in the 2015 season, worn by DeMarco Murray before that. Randle was cut due to off-the-field issues that allowed the three-time Pro Bowler to carve out his legacy with the number.
Future in Dallas up in the air?
The Cowboys are trekking through a difficult 2020 season that has seen them fall well below the .500 mark.
Dallas is in the playoff picture, but only due to the NFC East being arguably the league’s worst division. The team’s struggles have brought some outside concerns around Elliott’s long-term future. He’s coming off his first 100 rushing yard performance of the year in the Week 11 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Elliott’s lack of elite production and workload have faced numerous questions throughout the campaign. Despite that, team owner Jerry Jones and head coach Mike McCarthy have continued to voice the utmost confidence in his ability. The words of encouragement remain a positive sign, but it comes down to the tale of the tape that will keep him in Dallas.
The 25-year-old has solidified his status as a franchise cornerstone piece, which he has an opportunity ahead this season to finish up another highly productive campaign. Beyond that, only time will tell what lies ahead of Elliott after 2020.