Chicago Bears Legend Walter Payton Wasn’t Originally #34
The number thirty-four was not the original jersey for Walter Payton when he joined the Chicago Bears.
Depending on the player and the sport, the jersey number could be very important to the athlete. I think it means more to me now than when I was playing. For the most part, my sports were football from fifth grade through high school and baseball from tee-ball unit I was sixteen. I may have tried something here or there but there is no way I would remember those numbers. I can not even recall my baseball numbers.
I do have memories of my football uniform numbers they were 52, 70, 83, 66, 60, 67, 60, and 79. I only wore the same number once and that was 60. As you can tell, they did not mean much to me because I changed them every season.
Nowadays, I usually pick # 99 for everything. Diehard and old-school hockey fans get upset at my Rockford IceHogs jerseys because of that number because it was Wayne Gretzky but I did not think about that while picking it. I did because Chicago Bears Hall of Famer, Dan Hampton, is one of my favorite players of all time and that was what he wore. I really do not want to wear a quarterback or receiver jersey.
Some professional athletes take it so seriously, that when they change teams if someone else already has the number they will buy it off that player, Unless, they have already established themselves in the league.
When rookies join a team unless they already have star power are assigned a jersey number. It is usually bad because the good ones are already spoken for. Some of those players will just keep that one. Many younger Chicago Blackhawks have been doing it the last few years. You get someone like Andrew Shaw wearing #65. He would not pick that himself. His first appearance was in that uniform and that is how the fans remember that first time.
Now, some players will change that number once the final roster is made before the season. Usually, there are some veteran cuts, so some good jerseys become available. Maybe, they get a number that fits their position better. Sometimes, they just need a change.
The Chicago Bears have a unique situation. They have the most retired jersey numbers in the NFL. At this point, they are unable to honor anymore. That means you can see some new players wearing legendary ones. Mike Singletary's # 50 shows up quite a bit and it does not seem right anytime. It also means some members of the team will have to grab one that might not be their top choice.
In the history of the Chicago Bears, many players have changed their number while still on the team. Here are some of the most notable ones.
According to chicagobears.com,
- Walter Payton - When he first was drafted by the team, they assigned him #21. He would change that to #34 before the kick-off of his rookie season. I could not even imagine him not being #34. I hadn't idea about the #21.
- Doug Plank - He was originally #25, but the Bears traded for someone who really wanted that number. Plank give it up and switched to #46. The "25" Defense does not sound as menacing as the "46."
- Lance Briggs - When he got drafted he was assigned #91. Then a player was cut and #55 became available and he made the switch.
- Mike Ditka - His #89 was already taken when he came to Chicago so his jersey was #82. Luckily, that player was let go and Ditka got his number. I believe it is a much better fit.
- Jim Flanigan - Defensive Lineman started his career as #68. I do not like that for him because it is more of an Offensive Lineman number. He ended up getting #99, which I am not a big fan of either because that should be retired for Legend, Dan Hampton.
They do not seem like the same player with those odd first jersey numbers. I am glad the switch was made.
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