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Stories Behind the Numbers

Posted May 10, 2013

A look at the reasons why the Broncos' top three draft picks chose the jersey numbers they did.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Many a jersey number tells a story about the athlete who wears it. But sometimes, you just have to take what’s available -- and find reasons to embrace the digits that now  help define your career.

Take running back Montee Ball. The Broncos’ second-round pick wore No. 28 at Wisconsin. He grew up admiring Terrell Davis, who made No. 30 legendary in Denver. But neither was an option, since Quinton Carter has the former and David Bruton the latter.

“Of course I wanted 28, but I'm the rookie. I'm at the bottom of the pecking order,” Ball said.

But Ball has been a Broncos fan since the late 1990’s, when he decorated his bedroom in a Denver motif. So he knows as well as anyone that Davis was the first link in a chain of 1,000-yard runners that spanned most of the Mike Shanahan era.

When Ball arrived, he was presented with multiple numbers from which to choose. Knowing Broncos history, one leapt at him, so he grabbed it.

“I wanted 38: Mike Anderson,” Ball said, citing the 1,000-yard rusher of 2000 and 2005 who was also the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2000.

Cornerback Kavyon Webster also knew he’d have to change numbers, but for a different reason: NFL rules prevent cornerbacks from wearing single digits. But No. 6, his jersey number at South Florida, became part of the basis for his new number in Denver.

“I thought of 36 as me being a third-round pick, and I wore 6 in college,” Webster said. “Thirty-six: third-round pick, No. 6."

No change was involved for first-round defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. He wore No. 92 at North Carolina, and in the wake of Elvis Dumervil’s departure, he was able to claim it again. But Dumervil went to three Pro Bowls and set the Broncos’ single-season sack record (since broken) in that number, leaving Williams plenty of work in order to live up to what that number represented in recent years.

“Yeah, I was excited about it, but I've got to earn the number that I put on my back,” Williams said. “So at the end of the day, I have 92 right now, and that was just the number they gave me, so obviously, that's what I chose. But I still want to earn my stripes. I still want to show the coaches that I'm even worthy of wearing a Broncos jersey."

By any number, that’s the task in front of everyone on hand this weekend.