"I will wear whatever number they want me to wear, if that's 15, I'll wear 15. If that's 95, I'll wear 95. I don't really care just as long as I can wear a Denver Broncos jersey." -- Tim Tebow shorty after the 2010 NFL DraftThe arrival of rookies and free agents every offseason in Denver causes a jersey number shake-up. Many stories have been noted (as well as missed) over the years concerning the Broncos' jersey numbers, from Boss Bailey paying Kenny Peterson for #97 to Knowshon Moreno wearing #27 in honor of Darrent Williams. This offseason was no exception for jersey number transactions.
In March, the Broncos traded Peyton Hillis to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for QB Brady Quinn. Hillis was drafted by the Broncos in 2008; his first jersey number was 48. Shortly before the start of the 2008 season, the Broncos traded Domonique Foxworth to the Atlanta Falcons, freeing up #22 -- Foxworth's number. Peyton Hillis was quick to jump on the number, and wore it during his rookie and second seasons in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Alphonso Smith was making a name for himself at Wake Forest as a star Conerback. The Broncos took notice, and drafted him last April. In his rookie season he didn't live up to his expectations, but he has been looking good in the Broncos' Mini Camps, and should make more plays this season. While at college he wore jersey #2, but as Defensive Backs aren't allowed to wear numbers lower than 20 in the NFL, he picked #33 to wear with the Broncos in 2009. After Hillis was traded, Smith switched to #22, adding a "2" to his former college number.
The man who Cleveland traded for Peyton Hillis, Brady Quinn, had worn jersey number 10 since High School. The man in Denver who owned #10 upon Quinn's arrival was Receiver Jabar Gaffney. Coming into the League with the Texans, Gaffney first wore #86, before moving on to New England where he wore #10, and helped the Patriots reach the Super Bowl. Quinn talked to Gaffney, but ultimately decided on #9, a number that had been vacant since 2008 when it was worn by Punter Stefan Fatsis. The Broncos gave permission to Fatsis, a sportswriter working for the Wall Street Journal, to practice with the team as a punter during Training Camp, and write a book about his experience, and what it's like being a NFL player, particularly a kicker. The book, named A Few Seconds Of Panic, is a Bronco fan must read. Quinn looks to stay longer with the Broncos than Fatsis, who was 'cut' after the first pre-season game.
Jersey numbers aren't as important to some players as they are to others, but that's not to say every player doesn't have a favorite number. Watch for Volume 2 of What's in a number, reviewing some of the Broncos' Wide Receivers' new numbers.