For the second time in more than 70 years, a University of Washington football player will wear No. 44 into battle — donning a jersey long retired to honor two-way back Roland Kirkby.
Oklahoma cornerback transfer Bookie Radley-Hiles made this disclosure on social media on Monday by posing for photos and thanking the deceased Kirkby's descendants for apparently giving him permission to use the number, which was last used in 1950.
"4-4 will be worn with Heart and Honor," Radley-Hiles tweeted.
The Huskies have retired three jerseys, but 44 and 2 will be used by current players, with sophomore cornerback Kyler Gordon pulling on the latter digit that was made famous by deceased All-America running back Chuck Carroll in 1926-28.
Since Kirkby, a UW official said Pio Vatuvei has worn No. 44 for the Huskies, doing so as a true freshman in 2012 before he was dropped from the team, and he wound up finishing his career at Louisville. The circumstances of him using the jersey weren't readily available.
Carroll, who became King County prosecutor and died in 2003 at 96, and his descendants have permitted the use of his No. 2 jersey to Aaron Williams, his son Kaisen Williams and Aaron Fuller, all Husky wide receivers, and Gordon.
Only No. 33, which belonged to All-America running back George Wilson in 1923-25, hasn't been returned to service by the Huskies, but, too, will become available.
The school explained a new process for honoring the three jerseys in the Husky Stadium concourse and reusing them here.
The UW typically doesn't like to retire jersey numbers, especially now with the football program forced to issue duplicates in order to dress more than 100 players each season for practice.
The Huskies' most famous numbers — 6 for Sonny Sixkiller, 32 for Hugh McElhenny and 90 for Steve Emtman — have never been retired and removed from use.
Radley-Hiles wore No. 44 throughout his stay at Oklahoma as a three-year starter, but he dressed in No. 4 throughout spring football practice, likely while awaiting family permission.
A three-year starter in 1948-50, Kirkby was honored immediately after his career ended with his jersey retirement because the school felt he was an inspirational player with great leadership qualities who often was overlooked by the presence of teammates Don Heinrich and McElhenny, both first-time All-Americans, with Heinrich doing that twice at quarterback.
Kirkby's biggest claim to fame on the field was setting a school record with three touchdown catches in a game against Kansas State in a 33-7 victory in the 1950 season opener, an accomplishment since matched.
The Burlington, Washington, native died in 1978 at 48 from cancer.
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