Marshall University Should Retire More Football Numbers

Zane Towsend, Student Reporter

From the natural grass of Fairfield Stadium to the artificial turf at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, there have been many legendary football players that have suited up in the signature kelly green jersey.

In 1984, the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame opened its doors and since then, exactly 117 inductees have partaken in the classic American pastime that is football. It is no secret that Marshall University’s football program is one that is filled to the brim with history, especially when it comes to the names attached to it.

Such as Pro Football Hall of Fame members Randy Moss and Frank “Gunner” Gatski; current NFL coaches like Troy Brown of the New England Patriots and Byron Leftwich of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even Harry “Cy” Young, the man the MLB commissioned and named a trophy after because of how dominant of a pitcher he was, suited up in pads and cleats to play some Thundering Herd football.

Although the previous list of names is short compared to the actual list of names in the Hall of Fame, only one of those names in that previous list has had their number retired. In 2005,  Gatski’s #72 was retired, and 17 years later his number is still the only one hanging up at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Of course, there are detractors who believe that retiring numbers in college football is a nuisance and logistical nightmare. An average college football roster holds between 100-120 players, and with 85 scholarships to hand out per year, it makes assigning a number to wear a hassle. 

And yet, despite jersey numbers duplicating every year on Marshall’s football roster, that #72 has still not seen the light of day out on the field and for good reason. What Gatski accomplished after leaving Marshall for the pros can not be understated. Gatski would play professional football for 12 seasons and in that span, he was named First-Team All Pro 4 times, played in the 1956 Pro Bowl and won eight championships while snapping the ball to Hall of Fame QBs Otto Graham and Bobby Layne. 

One number that should join Gatski’s #72 is that of Randy Moss’s #88. Moss accomplished way more than Gatski did, and even had a longer career that spanned 16 seasons while also being one the most dominant WRs in the NFL. There is a reason why he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the fact that it has been 4 years since he was inducted and Marshall still has not retired his #88 is head scratching to say the least.

Another number that should be considered is Troy Brown’s #8. Of course, Troy Brown’s name has not yet been named into the Pro Football Hall of Fame—and probably never will— but Troy Brown also had a stellar NFL career that is not to scoff at. In Brown’s 15 seasons with the New England Patriots, he became a three time Super Bowl champion, retired as the Patriots all-time receptions leader and has been inducted into both the Patriots Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

There could also be arguments made for the numbers of both Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich to be retired; however, once they reached the pros, they did not blossom into the caliber of players on par with Gatski, Moss or Brown.

If Vince Young can get his #10 retired at Texas, despite having a lackluster NFL career or Gerald Ford having his #48 retired at Michigan for becoming President of the United States; then Marshall could, at the very least, retire the #88 and #8 of Moss and Brown for what they accomplished in the NFL.