Five years after Tony Romo’s retirement, the Cowboys will have a player wear his No. 9. His former teammate, Jaylon Smith, requested the number, and the Cowboys and Romo granted the linebacker permission.
Smith explained Tuesday he wore No. 9 every step of his career until the NFL when league rules prohibited him from a single-digit number. The league recently loosened its number rules, though, so he asked to go back to his former number.
“First and foremost, just a blessing and an honor to be able to carry on the 9 legacy,” Smith said Tuesday. “Tony Romo did an amazing job of just being elite and putting together great success for the Cowboys franchise. As you know, new players coming in always getting an opportunity to sometimes carry on legacies, and that’s the opportunity the Jones family granted me with wearing No. 9. So it’s definitely a blessing. It’s been a part of my life. I’ve been wearing No. 9 since I was 9 years old, through Pee Wee, middle school, high school, college, All-American games, you name it. No. 9 is a part of me. It’s really just a blessing to be able to continue the legacy.”
Smith was a second-round choice of the Cowboys in 2016, which turned out to be Romo’s final season in Dallas. Romo was unseated by Dak Prescott after Romo was injured in the preseason, and the quarterback played only one game before his final season before retiring.
Smith did not play as a rookie as he rehabbed from a serious knee injury.
It sounds as if Smith has yet to personally talk with Romo about wearing Romo’s number. Six other players wore the number before Romo.
“Actually, me and Tony, we’re working on conversations right now,” Smith said. “Nothing but love. He’s a busy guy. But it’s just an amazing feeling. . . . It’s definitely a blessing to be able to carry on his number. He’s a big brother and definitely thank him.”
Smith previously wore No. 54, made famous by Hall of Famer Randy White, and will have to buy the remaining stock of his jerseys, per league rules, to make the switch. Todd Archer of ESPN reports it’s a “mid-six-figure” price.
“It’s about value over cost, and definitely a blessing being able to play for the Dallas Cowboys,” Smith said. “We’re working out the terms the right way. But really I’m just thankful to be in the No. 9 and have an opportunity to turn this thing around this year. We’re all focused. We’re locked in. And we know what we need to accomplish.”