Syracuse football bringing No. 44 out of retirement

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse is bringing back the football team's famed No. 44.

The school made the announcement on Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for Plaza 44, which will be constructed adjacent to the new Ensley Athletic Center. The plaza will honor the great trio of running backs who wore the number and helped make it one of the most recognizable numbers in college football - Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little.

Statues of Brown, Davis and Little, all of them members of the College Football Hall of Fame, will be placed in the plaza, which is expected to be completed by the start of next season.

Since 1954, 11 players have worn 44 at Syracuse, none since the number was retired in 2005 and placed on permanent display inside the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse developed a tradition in which the number was passed down to a promising player. None matched the accomplishments of the honored trio.

Brown played for the Orange from 1954-56 and led the team to a berth in the Cotton Bowl before becoming an NFL star with the Cleveland Browns. Davis led Syracuse to its lone national championship in 1959 and two years later became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Little is the school's only three-time All-American, from 1964-66.

''This is very special. I truly appreciate it,'' said Little, now a special assistant in the athletic department at his alma mater. ''Wearing the No. 44 was magical. You always challenged yourself to live up to the standards, the greatness.''

A small committee will be formed to decide who gets to wear the number, and that group will include Little.

The last member of the Orange to wear 44 was fullback Rob Konrad in 1998. In all, 25 players have worn the number at Syracuse.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.