It really is the dawning of a new day in Green Bay. For years, Green Bay Packers fans had watched Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson take the field wearing 52 and 87 in green and gold. In 2019, however, things will look very different, as both of those numbers will belong to members of the team’s 2019 draft class.
Rashan Gary and Jace Sternberger will have plenty of recent success to live up to when they put on those jerseys this year. Interestingly, several members of the Packers’ draft class wore single-digit numbers in college — Gary among them. They of course had to get new numbers to meet the NFL’s uniform regulations.
Here’s a look at the new numbers for each of these new Packers and the history that comes with each one.
Rashan Gary, OLB (1.12): #52
It’s going to be weird seeing Clay Matthews’ old number on a different face this season, but at least it’s staying at the same position rather than going over to the offensive line. Hopefully Gary can be as productive early in his career as Matthews was — the former USC Trojan had 23.5 sacks in his first two years. Of course, Matthews had high marks to live up to as well, as it belonged to longtime center Frank Winters before him.
Matthews just found out about the number assignment, though, and he had some fun with it:
The body’s not even cold yet lol— Clay Matthews III (@ClayMatthews52) April 29, 2019
Darnell Savage, S (1.21): #26
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland wore number 26 most recently, donning that last season. However, the best Packer to wear 26 is not in question — that would be Herb Adderley, who now has a minor connection to both of the Packers’ first-round picks. He wore 26 from 1961 to 1969 after being the 12th overall pick (like Gary) in ‘61.
Elgton Jenkins, G (2.44): #74
The Packers’ second-round pick gets a number that has belonged to a pair of excellent defensive linemen in the past, though he’ll be on the other side of the trenches. Recently, Aaron Kampman wore 74 on his way to 54 sacks as a Packer; back in the Lombardi days it was Henry Jordan’s number for five All-Pro seasons and five NFL titles en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jace Sternberger, TE (3.75): #87
Do we need to explain the recent history of number 87? Sternberger will have a lot to live up to in wearing the number most recently donned by Jordy Nelson. However, that number also belonged to a legendary Lombardi-era Packer: defensive lineman Willie Davis, also a Hall of Famer and also a five-time All-Pro.
Kingsley Keke, DL (5.150): #96
This number assignment likely means that Muhammad Wilkerson’s time in Green Bay is done, as that was his number last season. It also belonged to Mike Neal in the early part of this decade, Sean Jones probably had the most success in these digits, however, recording 24.5 sacks in three years with the Packers.
Ka’Dar Hollman, CB (6.185): #29
29 became available earlier this offseason when Kentrell Brice left as a free agent. Before him, Casey Hayward wore it, and the Packers should be thrilled if they get any similar sort of production from Hollman in his career. It also belonged to a trio of starting defensive backs in the team’s lean years: Al Matthews, Mike McCoy, and Ken Stills.
Dexter Williams, RB (6.194): #22
The Packers likely have some explaining to do with this number. Kapri Bibbs is also listed as wearing 22 on the team website, so presumably he will be giving up these digits. There are other available numbers in the 20s, 30s, and 40s: 35, 39, 41, 47, and 48 are all currently unclaimed.
This number has been handed off to a variety of running backs and defensive backs over the years, but the most notable players to wear it were running back Elijah Pitts in the Lombardi years and starting cornerback Mark Lee in the 1980s.
Ty Summers, ILB (7.226): #44
For the second straight year, a linebacker will wear number 44 in Green Bay. Last year it was Antonio Morrison’s number after arriving from Indianapolis via trade. Before that, however, it was primarily a running back’s number, with James Starks, Najeh Davenport, and Donny Anderson all sporting it in their Packers careers.