Cowboys No. 88 Club
Dallas first-round draft pick WR CeeDee Lamb will be wearing the famed Cowboys No. 88 when he takes the field in Big D. Although Lamb expressed a desire to wear the No. 10 as a pro, but he was given the number from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was adamant that his team’s newest star don the 88.
Lamb will be the 11th member of the franchise to wear No. 88, and first since WR Dez Bryant’s final season with the club in 2017.
Dallas Doesn’t Retire Jerseys
Longtime Dallas Cowboys public relations director Rich Dalrymple explained in an interview with the Fort Worth Star Telegram that the Cowboys are one of the few teams in professional sports that doesn’t “retire” jerseys. They elect, instead, to have a Ring of Honor and to have some numbers pulled from circulation.
“Hence, you wound up with great players sharing great numbers that crossed over into different eras; 54 was Chuck Howley and Randy White; 88 was Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin; 22 was Bob Hayes and Emmitt Smith; 94 was Charles Haley and DeMarcus Ware. The numbers that you don’t see any more are 8, 12, 22 and 74.”
“The reason that you continued to see 88 in circulation through the years is because of jersey number restrictions,” Dalrymple explained. The team carried too many tight ends and receivers, so the number remained available.
The first player to ever wear the number for Dallas was a linebacker, Sonny Davis, in 1961. A punter, Colin Ridgway, took the number in 1965. From there, 88 became the exclusive rights to pass-catchers.
Sonny Randle was the first WR to wear the number (1968), then it went to Reggie Rucker (1970-1971) and Ron Sellers (1972). Those three players combined to catch 42 passes for 884 yards and seven touchdowns over four seasons.
Then, the number passed to Drew Pearson.
Drew Pearson was with Dallas from 1973-1983. He played in 156 games, catching 489 passes for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. He appeared in the Super Bowl three times, winning Super Bowl XII in 1978.
Pearson signed with the Cowboys in 1973 after going undrafted out of Tulsa. He made the team thanks primarily too his play on special teams. He only entered the WR rotation after incumbent starter Otto Stowe and his backup Mike Montgomery were injured. As a rookie, Pearson hauled in 22 receptions for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Cowboys No. 88 Club Starts with Pearson
He took over as a full-time starting in 1974, starring opposite Golden Richards. Pearson led Dallas with 62 catches for 1,087 yards and two touchdowns. In 1979, he, Tony Hill (no. 80) and Tony Dorsett made the Cowboys the first team in NFL history to feature two 1,000-yards wide receivers and a 1,000-yard running back. Pearson and Hill also became the first WR tandem in Dallas’ history to notch 1,000-yard years in the same season.
Pearson went on to become one of the most prolific WRs of the 70s and 80s. He landed on the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade team, but he’s yet to receive the Pro Football Hall of Fame nod.
What they did to Drew Pearson is not Right… Original 88… you deserve to be in the hall of fame no if and buts about it.. I’m sorry how they are doing you man…— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) January 15, 2020
Pearson finished his career with a Super Bowl championship (XII), three Pro Bowl selections (1974, 1976, 1977) and three first-team All-Pro (1974, 1976, 1977) positions. He was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2011.
It’s because of his achievements that the Cowboys No. 88 club became reserved for only the best in team history. No player wore 88 until Michael Irvin arrived in 1988.
Michael Irvin landed with the Cowboys as the No. 11 overall selection in the 1988 NFL Draft. The electric and energetic receiver starred at the University of Miami, where he re-wrote receiving records in just three years and played an integral part of the Hurricanes’ 1987 national championship team. Irvin’s number in college at Miami was 47. Even if Irvin wanted 47 after the Cowboys drafted him in the first round in 1988, the NFL would not permit it.
Irvin arrived as the last first-round pick by longtime Dallas GM Tex Schramm and legendary coach Tom Landry. He became the first rookie WR to start a season opener in 20 years and caught 32 passes for 654 yards and five touchdowns. His 20.4 yards-per-catch led the NFC that year.
In 1989, Irvin was reunited with his University of Miami head coach, Jimmy Johnson, when Johnson took over for Landry. From there, the two, along with Aikman, Smith and others, carved a dominant path through the NFL.
Cowboys No. 88 Club Continues with Irvin
Irvin proved to be one of the most prolific pass-catchers of the 1990s. From 1991 through 1998, he registered 1,000-yard seasons in all but one season, tallying over 10,000 receiving yards in that span. During that time, Dallas won three Super Bowl titles.
In 1995, Irvin set a franchise record for receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,603) and set an NFL record with 11 games with over 100 receiving yards.
Irvin finished his career with 750 catches, 11,904 receiving yards and 65 touchdowns. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX), five-time Pro Bowler and a First-team All-Pro in 1991. He was a member of the NFL’s 1990 All-Decade team, and has since been inducted to both the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor (2005) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2007).
After Irvin, there was a string of players to join the Cowboys No. 88 club that didn’t live up to the number. Two tight ends, Jackie Harris (2000-2001) and Brett Pierce (2005-2006). WR Antonio Bryant came to the Cowboys in 2002 as a second-round pick, and was supposed to be the next transcendent No. 88, but he fell short of those expectations and was off the team after less than three seasons.
From there, the number passed to Dez Bryant.
Dez Bryant joined Dallas in 2010. The Texas native was selected by the Cowboys in the first-round of the 2010 draft out of Oklahoma State University. Dallas traded up during the draft to take Bryant, then gave him the famed No. 88.
Bryant’s rookie season was cut short due to injury, but he finished with 45 catches for 561 yards and six touchdowns. He earned a spot on the 2010 NFL All-Rookie Team. In 2011, Bryant became a full-time starter for Dallas. Bryant finished that season with 63 receptions for 928 yards and nine touchdowns.
Cowboys No. 88 Club: Dez-N-Effect
Over his next three seasons, Bryant became one of the most prolific pass-catchers in the league. He nabbed 273 passes for 3.935 yards and 41 touchdowns. During the 2014 playoffs, the NFL controversial “catch rule” came into play when Bryant, against the Green Bay Packers, seemed to haul in a 31-yard pass at the 1-yard line, but bobbled the ball when he stretched. The play was overturned, and Dallas lost 26-21.
Bryant would finish his career with 531 catches for 7,459 yards and a franchise-record 73 touchdowns. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro player.
In the wake of Lamb’s drafting, Bryant has been supportive of the new star receiver joining the Cowboys No. 88 club.
CeeDee Lamb’s drop to the No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft was something of a surprise. Considered by many to the top, or at least second-best, receiver on the board, Lamb was the third wideout drafted, behind both Alabama WRs Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy.
Lamb declared for the 2020 NFL Draft after a prolific career at Oklahoma. In three seasons, he hauled in 173 passes for 3,292 yards and 32 touchdowns. As a junior, he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award for best college football receiver and was a consensus All-American.
Lamb, who wore No. 2 with the Sooners, finished No. 1 in Oklahoma history in average yards-per-catch at 19.0 (among players with at least 130 receptions). He’s second all-time with 32 receiving TDs, and was third in career receiving yards (3,292). He also set a school record with 24 catches for at least 40 yards, and six games with at least 160 yards receiving.
It’s been reported Lamb initially hoped to wear No. 10 as a pro, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones foisted the No. 88 upon him.
“I said in honor of my great friend, that just passed [last] year, we’re going to have his namesake come on here and wear old No. 88 like Michael and Dez and those guys and we got us a receiver,” Jerry Jones said, per the Dallas Morning News. “And let me tell you one thing if he’s got the [competitive nature] and hearts of that Jerry Lamb, he’ll be bad to the bone.”
Lamb will now join the famed Cowboys No. 88 Club.