There was quite an uproar among fans of the Dallas Cowboys, in particular, the loyalists of former quarterback Tony Romo this week when news broke that Jaylon Smith would switch to the No. 9 due to the NFL approving the proposal to change how jersey numbers are assigned. Linebackers can now wear 1-59 or 90-99 and Smith is taking it back to his days with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The switch won’t come without a cost though. Smith had to buy out the current inventory of the No. 54 jerseys and T-shirts which follow the NFL’s rules when such a move is made, and it was a six-figure transaction. However, the price tag is worth it to Smith, and he recently went into detail on what the No. 9 jersey means to him.
“The number 9 is more than a number to me. It is a part of me. Always has been,” Smith said. “Since I was nine years old, this number has helped me learn how to handle hardship with grace and understanding. The true meaning and symbolism behind the number nine awakened my spirit and has guided me throughout my whole life.
“I have worn this number through peewee, middle school, high school, and college. It’s been represented in all facets of my life (even with #5+4) and I’m excited to be wearing it now with the Cowboys.
“I’m thankful, humbled, and motivated more than ever. Locked in and ready for the 2021 season. As always, I’m ready for the opportunity, and I’ll do whatever it takes for us to dominate this year on defense, you’ve got my word.”
Smith has been ridiculed by the Cowboys fan base for his regression in play since signing his five-year, $64 million dollar extension in 2019. However, one can appreciate his reasoning for wanting to make the switch back to his old number once the rules were changed, regardless of how you feel about him as a player.
No player has worn the No. 9 jersey for the Cowboys since the aforementioned Romo retired after the 2016 season. He left as the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (34,183) and touchdown passes (248) and will undoubtedly be in the Cowboy’s Ring of Honor soon.
Smith recognizes what Romo’s legacy is wearing the number nine in Dallas and wants to add to it.
“It’s a blessing and an honor to carry on the 9 legacy,” Smith said. “Tony Romo did an amazing job of just being elite and put together great success for a Cowboys franchise. As you know, new players coming in are always getting an opportunity to sometimes carry on legacy. And that’s an opportunity that the Jones family granted me with wearing No. 9.”
The 2021 season is a big one for Smith. The Cowboys put heavy resources into the linebacker position during the NFL Draft with the selections of first-round pick Micah Parsons and fourth-round pick Jabril Cox. With his play trending downward as of late, the Cowboys have put Smith on notice, as well as Leighton Vander Esch, hence why his fifth-year option wasn’t picked up.
With his old number back on his jersey and the motivation by multiple players being drafted as his position, Smith has all the motivation to get back to his 2018 form when he has his best season.