By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
A tradition that started under former football coach Matt Rhule, the single-digit jersey numbers have been reserved for players that have shown exceptional leadership and dedication to the Baylor football team.
Stemming from his days as Temple head coach, Rhule called the tradition a “rite of passage.” New head coach Dave Aranda was not going to be the one to discontinue it.
“When I got here, this had to be one of the top three or four things that was explained to me,” Aranda said. “I know it is pretty important to our players and I appreciate that.”
Following the Bear’s first scrimmage, Baylor announced that junior wide receiver R.J. Sneed, senior running back Trestan Ebner, junior linebacker Terrel Bernard, senior quarterback Charlie Brewer and senior running back John Lovett would don single-digit numbers this season.
On Tuesday, senior cornerback Raleigh Texada, junior safety Christian Morgan, sophomore wide receiver Gavin Holmes, junior linebacker Jalen Pitre and junior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton would also receive single-digit numbers.
“Our guys, when we brought them in you could see a couple of them wanted to be single digits,” Aranda said. “The excitement was pretty cool to see.”
These players will follow in the footsteps of other star Baylor players who have been chosen to wear a single-digit number, including current NFL players Denzel Mims, Ira Lewis and Clay Johnston.
The process of deciding who will wear a single-digit number each season is simple. Players vote for who they believe deserve it. Aranda said that the players voted for the “toughest, hardest working and most competitive player.”
Aranda agreed with the player’s selections this season, saying that each player exemplified the qualities that they were looking for.
“They get it. All of these guys get it,” Aranda said. “They’re great communicators, they’re great leaders, so very much deserving of this honor.”
Following a standout season where he earned Second Team All-Big 12, Bernard is one of the two linebackers to receive the honor of wearing a single-digit jersey number, the other being Pitre. Bernard contributed 112 total tackles last season and was selected for the preseason All-Big 12 first team this offseason. Bernard will wear No. 2 this season.
Pitre, who redshirted last season, has been a standout in fall camps so far. Aranda praised Pitre’s decision making and leadership, saying that he was “very excited” about Pitre for the upcoming season. Pitre will wear No. 8.
Starting quarterback Charlie Brewer will wear No. 5 this season, switching from the iconic No.12 which he wore his first three seasons at Baylor. Brewer has taken on an increased leadership role this offseason which has earned him a single-digit number.
Aranda has sung constant praises of Brewer’s leadership throughout fall camp, saying he has a strong “confidence” and “swagger” in a recent press conference.
Brewer threw for over 3,000 yards last season and 21 touchdowns while maintaining an average quarterback rating of 147.0.
Wide receivers Sneed and Thornton had breakout seasons last year. Both totaled career highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Thornton will wear No. 9, while Sneed will wear No. 0.
Holmes was the only sophomore to be selected by his teammates. He will wear No. 6 and will finally hit the field after missing the last two seasons due to injury. However, Holmes’ past injuries have not been holding him back. So far, R.J. Sneed has been impressed with Holmes’ recovery.
“I’m excited for y’all to see him because he looks healthy and well,” Sneed said. “I feel like the knee injury never happened.”
The secondary pair of Texada and Morgan will wear No. 3 and No. 4 respectively. Texada is one of two starters returning from last season’s defense, the other being Bernard, but Morgan had significant playing time at safety last season as well.
The dynamic running duo of Lovett and Ebner will round out the players that have been selected to wear single-digit numbers. Lovett and Ebner combined for over 900 yards rushing last season as well as ten touchdowns. Lovett has been a constant in the single-digit group, as he has worn the No. 7 during all four of his years at Baylor. Ebner will wear No.1 this season.
Aranda said that the players selected to wear the single-digit numbers have shown “real” and “heartfelt” leadership of the team during the fall camp, which Aranda said can make a big difference.
“It’s our team, it’s RJ’s team, it’s Charlie’s team, it’s Terrel’s team,” Aranda said. “For them to get invested and get in there and send a message to everybody, there’s quite a bit of that.”