For Dexter McCluster, it’s a numbers game.
From youth football to the NFL, he has worn No. 22 on his football jersey. It’s a homage to his father, Marcus, who wore the number in high school ans as a running back at Eastern Kentucky in the early ’90s.
McCluster is serious about it. He includes No. 22 when he signs autographs for fans. His personal website is mccluster22.com. The number is tattooed on his right arm.
There was one small problem, though. When McCluster signed with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent, No. 22 was in the possession of Jackie Battle, a reserve running back and special teams fixture. The protocol that rules an NFL locker room holds that possession is nine-tenths of the law when it comes to jersey numbers.
These things can get interesting – and pricey. Some players simply won’t hand over a number because of their own attachment to it. A few years back, Giants quarterback Eli Manning gave punter Jeff Feagles a family vacation for No. 10. Feagles was assigned No. 17, which he later brokered into a kitchen when he handed it over to Plaxico Burress.
Sometimes it’s straight cash. When Clinton Portis signed with the Washington Redskins a few years back, he worked a deal with then-teammate Ifeanyi Ohalete to give up No. 26. The price: $40,000.
When DeSean Jackson arrived in Washington earlier this year, he made it clear he wanted No. 10. But Robert Griffin, III wears No. 10 – as do thousands of Redskins fans that have ponied up for authentic NFL-certified replicas. Griffin says he isn’t trading.
With that as background, Battle was in position to drive a hard bargain. But he didn’t. He asked McCluster to make a donation to a church. McCluster wrote a check for $2,500 and Battle gave up his right to No. 22.
The deal was done. No arm-twisting. and no arm-wrestling.
This comes on the heels of the much-ado-about-nothing ruse where backup quaterback Charlie Whitehurst planted the story that he had arm-wrestled punter Brett Kern for right to the No. 6 Titans jersey. Supposedly, Kern had strong-armed Whitehurst and had kept No. 6.
Things got started when Whitehurst posted on Instagram that he arm-wrestled the punter for the No. 6 and lost; however Kern later perpetuated the myth.
Several media outlets got pranked even after they covered the story right away.
Like they say, if it’s on the Internet it must true.
Whitehurst did eventually confirmed that it was a hoax and admitted that it was irresponsible for him to participate in an arm-wrestling competition.
Whitehurst, who wore No. 6 in San Diego last season, acknowledged he briefly discussed the number with Kern when he arrived in Nashville as a free agent signee.
I must have missed all those retractions from the outlets that reported the non-story. I guess they’re too busy checking dental records of the Tooth Fairy.
As for Battle, he was happy to hand over No. 22 to McCluster. The two were teammates in Kansas City in 2010-11 and are friends.
Now, Battle, an eight-year pro, is wearing No.44.
When you’re a role player like Battle, you have to be ready when your number’s called.