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Mile High Morning: RB Jaleel McLaughlin shares deeper meaning behind NFL number


The Lead

It's not unusual for rookies that make a 53-man roster to change their jersey numbers. When they first arrive at an organization, many are assigned a number based solely on availability — and those that make the team often choose to change to either their collegiate number or digits that better suit them.

When Jaleel McLaughlin arrived in Denver as an undrafted free agent in 2023, he was assigned No. 38. He wore the number as he earned a place on the team during the preseason, and he chose not to change when the team set its initial roster heading into the regular season.

As he explained in an interview for Fanatics, the No. 38 was a perfect coincidence that honored his past. McLaughlin shared that he wore No. 10 in high school, No. 20 at Notre Dame College of Ohio and No. 8 at Youngstown State. Those three numbers added up to equal No. 38.

"It gave me the ease that I'm meant to be here in the NFL and that God is placing my steps," McLaughlin said. "Forever, I'll be No. 38."

Several of McLaughlin's previous numbers also hold special meaning.

"Something that meant a lot to me was the No. 2, just because my cousin, he passed away of a brain tumor," McLaughlin said. "I wasn't able to get No. 2, so [Notre Dame College] gave me No. 20, just to have the number two inside of my number. The number 20 really meant a lot to me. I ended up transferring to Youngstown State University. I chose No. 8. Me and my girlfriend, we kind of chose the number just because Kobe was No. 8 at a point in time, and I was always chasing greatness."

Then, in Denver, he saw a sign via his allocated jersey number that he could make it in the NFL.

"All of your hard work has added up to this number," McLaughlin remembered thinking.

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