J.J. Watt signing with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday came with one complication: No. 99, which he’s worn his entire professional career, wasn’t available.
It’s more complicated than Watt just paying the guy who wears No. 99 for the number. The Cardinals have retired No. 99 in honor of Marshall Goldberg, which means no one can wear that number for Arizona again.
Goldberg was a legendary halfback and defensive back for the Chicago Cardinals who played from 1939-43 and 1946-48, missing two seasons in the middle of his career to serve in the Navy in World War II. A four-time All-Pro and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the Cardinals retired his number before his death in 2006.
Under normal circumstances, Watt would have to pick a new jersey number. But he may not have to thanks to one of Goldberg’s family members.
Goldberg’s daughter gives her blessing to “unretire” No. 99
Goldberg’s daughter, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, told TMZ Sports on Tuesday that Watt has her permission to wear No. 99.
“He has my blessings,” Tullos said of Watt, “and I’m sure my father would be more than delighted for him to carry it on.”
Tullos thinks she knows what her dad would have wanted in this situation.
“Well, I know dad was really honored when they retired his number but also he’s always respected other players,” Tullos told TMZ. “And, if J.J. Watt had the No. 99 with him for a long time and it meant something to him, I think he’d be delighted to let him use the number and unretire or whatever the proper word would be.”
According to TMZ Sports, Watt called Tullos after he read the interview and she personally told him that he has her blessing to wear No. 99. In return, Watt asked if he could make a donation to a charity or foundation in honor of Goldberg.
Getting Tullos’ blessing to unretire No. 99 is obviously lovely, but it doesn’t mean it will absolutely happen. When a number is retired, that’s pretty final. A team has decided that a player is important enough to the history of their franchise that no one should ever wear their number again. That’s a huge honor, and rescinding it isn’t something teams ever really do. Watt may still need to pick a new number to wear with the Cardinals if they’re not willing to unretire No. 99.
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