SEATTLE — Several Washington Huskies players change uniform numbers every year, most of them in search of a coveted unique number. Others are assigned “ugly” or unpopular numbers as freshmen and come to like their new number enough to stick with it. Some get their high school number when they arrive on campus while others never wear their preferred number.
There’s more thinking than you might think. So I spent preseason camp asking current UW players why they wear their current number, a business I started in 2019 before the pandemic made accessing interviews much more complicated. .
Between this year’s roster and some names from the past, here are 31 UW players explaining why they wear their number. Responses have been edited slightly for clarity.
EDGE Sav’ell Smalls, #0: I wanted number 9 when I arrived because it was my number all through high school. Other staff had said I could get my number but when I got here it just wasn’t available. I was stuck with #17 and wanted to change it. I know Kris (Moll) had 9, and 0 was available. Zero looked pretty sick, I’m not going to lie. Especially in the box, you never really see 0.
WR Giles Jackson, No. 0: I asked for 5, but Dylan (Morris) got it, so it was either 8 or 0 or double digits, and I like single digits more, and no one had 0. As soon as they changed the rule, i asked.
WR Rome Odunze, No. 1: No. 1 has a bit of that “punch” (he wore No. 16 before). When you look down the field and see number 1, you think it’s a baseball player. That’s how I see myself, and that’s what I want to put on the pitch. #1, especially at UW, has so many legends, my goodness. I just want to be among these guys when I leave here, and make sure I put my name on the Husky football. I thought #1 was a great choice for this.
CB Jordan Perryman, No. 1: I wanted 23, but it’s Meesh (Mishael Powell). It was the next open issue, and I was like, you know what, why not be #1 my senior year?
LB Cam Bright, No. 2: I feel like number 2 chose me. I like even numbers (he wore #38 in Pittsburgh). I was #3 in high school, but Jeremiah (Martin) had 3 here, so I just got the closest number.
WR Taj Davis, No. 3: I’ve worn number 3 since the dawn of time, since I was young, my first season playing football when I was 6 years old. I got here, they made me wear #17, but I’m blessed to be back in #3 and excited to show you all what I can do in this issue.
EDGE Jeremiah Martin, No. 3: Number 3 means to me – me, my family and God. I’ve never given it much thought, but that’s what comes to mind.
QB Dylan Morris, No. 5: This is the number I started wearing since I started playing sports. Every guy has an attachment to a certain number. Coming here, I couldn’t get it (he wore number 9 before). I wanted to go through it after my freshman year in redshirt, but Sean McGrew had it, so of course he had seniority on me. As soon as he left, I wanted to reach this number. I wanted to go back to my roots.
RB Richard Newton, No. 6: My first year playing football, I was No. 6, the first time I put on a jersey. Thought it would be good to revisit this (he wore #28 before) and see if it sparks anything new for me.
DB Dom Hampton, No. 7: In high school, our best player wore 21, and I put on 21 to fill his shoes and look in the mirror and say, “I want to be that.” That’s why I moved on to 7 – Shaq Thompson, Keishawn Bierria, Taylor Rapp.
WR Jalen McMillan, No. 11: I’m thinking “one of one”. I just want to be different. It’s just something I wear myself.
LB Alphonzo Tuputala, No. 11: Just a new season. When I came out of my injury, I wanted a new year, a new me. I just wanted to change (he wore #40 before), because I also felt different, mind-wise and body-wise. I just wanted to change everything.
DB Kamren Fabiculanan, No. 13: My birthday is March 13 and I feel like 13 was just a special number for me (he wore #31 before).
S Asa Turner, No. 20: I showed up in the second year of high school at the university. When you’re young in college, you can’t choose your number. I had number 41 at the start. Then my coach saw me on picture day and said, “Why are you wearing size 41?” So he gave me 20. He took it from one of the kickers. Since then, I’ve kind of been rocking it. Thirteen is my number. Born on 13. But since then I just never took off (20). They also gave me this number when I arrived here.
LB Carson Bruener, No. 42: This is the number they gave me when I arrived. I was 30 in high school. I thought I was going to have 30 here. I received my box of cleats the first week, and there was a post-it that said “Carson Bruener, 42” on it. I was like, “Okay, I’ve never been 42 before.” After playing last year, I was like, “You know what? I’ll just keep it. I feel like I’m building an identity through this number, and it’s almost a part of me now, so there’s no reason to change.
LB Edefuan Ulofoshio, No. 48: I changed my number (to No. 4) initially because I want to play for four reasons – my family, the people who helped push me, God and obviously the last one being myself. But I was doing a workout and wearing 48 and felt great, so I changed it. Who knows, maybe I’ll wear number 4 when I get back, but right now it’s 48.
OL Troy Fautanu, n°55: Honestly, I just like the number. When I moved to O-line in high school, I was #43, because I grew up loving Troy Polamulu because he had the same name as me. When I switched to O-line it was between 55 and 59, and 55 seemed much better.
EDGE Zion Tupuola-Fetui, No. 58: I did not choose 58, far from it. I got it my freshman year, and I was just going to wear it and maybe make a name for myself and change it. But then I grew into it. Additionally, Von Miller was the last outside linebacker to win a Super Bowl MVP. So the number has juice.
DL Ulumoo Ale, No. 68: That’s exactly what I got when I got here.
OL Nate Kalepo, n°71: Danny Shelton, I used to come (to games) with his family and wear his jersey. I thought to myself, one day, I’m going to be there and wear this number and make a name for myself. I just continued it.
OL Roger Rosengarten, n°73: I was 73 growing up, through baseball, basketball and high school. I just kind of wanted to go back to my original roots (he wore 72 before).
DL Voi Tunuufi, No. 90: They gave me number 90. I really like it. I’ve heard stories about it and wear it with pride. They told me about (Steve) Emtman and how he was just a force to be reckoned with. I try to do the same things and respect his number.
DL Kuao Peihopa, No. 98: That’s the number they gave me, so I’ll stick to it. I had a trainer, Casey Tunitomo. He told me it wasn’t the number you wear – you have to get them to remember that number. I didn’t really care what number I had. That’s the one they gave me, so that’s the one I’m going to rock with.
And some old Huskies, gleaned from the archives of my iPhone recordings, around 2019…
TE Hunter Bryant, No. 1: I wore a 19 in high school. I got hurt in freshman year and went to No. 1. Then here I carried 19 my freshman year and got hurt, and I wanted to do the same thing I did in high school. After hurting myself twice while wearing it, I didn’t really want to wear it anymore.
DB Elijah Molden, No. 3: They gave it to me. I wanted number 1, then they gave me number 3, and I’m going to stick with it. … My dad was No. 1. Few freshmen come in and get No. 1.
DB Myles Bryant, No. 5: I grew up a Reggie Bush fan, but nothing special. My older brother also wore it in high school. I started at 31. That’s exactly what they gave me.
QB Jacob Eason, No. 10: I always was. I know my brother did it when he was younger. I used to wear a 44 because of my father, and I switched to a 10 because of my brother.
RB Sean McGrew, No. 25: It’s just the number they gave me when I got here. I wanted number 5, like I was in high school. One of my best friends on defense at Bosco was No. 4, so he was like, “Man, just be No. 5, so we’re side by side in the picture book.” It was really stupid, actually. Then I wore it for three years and the number grew on me, so it’s actually my favorite number now. (McGrew rose to No. 5 in 2020 and 2021.)
RB Salvon Ahmed, No. 26: My grandfather wore number 26 (he played at a small university in Kansas). I wore #2 in high school, but when I started playing football, I wore 26. Last year they asked me if I wanted #2, but I said no, I will stay with 26, representing my grandfather.
OL Trey Adams, No. 72: When I got here they gave me two options – I think it was 78 and 72, and I just liked 72.
TE Cade Otton, No. 87: My dad wore 87 in college. I wore number 10 in high school. My father, my uncle, my cousin, they all wore number 10 in Tumwater. Now my little brother wears number 10 in Tumwater. Small family tradition. (Like Cade, his brother Ryan Otton wears No. 87 in Washington.)
(Rome Odunze Top Photo: Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)