'Touched': Family of Marshall Goldberg Wants Watt to Keep No. 99

Defensive end J.J. Watt has worn No. 99 for his entire NFL career and that will continue as he received approval to un-retire the jersey in Arizona, with permission from the family of Marshall Goldberg.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Shortly after defensive end J.J. Watt announced he had agreed to sign a contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, he took a glance at the team's roster. 

After noticing that nobody currently signed wore jersey No. 99, he was excited that he would seemingly get to keep the number he has worn since his college days at Wisconsin. 

But Watt's high-school friend, Evan, let him know that No. 99 was retired by the Cardinals. It was worn by the late Marshall Goldberg, who was named a two-time NFL All-Pro by the Chicago Herald American while with the Chicago Cardinals during the 1940s. 

Watt was not that heartbroken. In fact, he said he had already started to think about a new number. That is, until he saw a TMZ Sports article on Tuesday in which Goldberg's daughter, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, said that Watt has her blessing to take the number.  

"I know dad was really honored when they retired his number, but he's always respected other players," Goldberg Tullos told TMZ. "And if J.J. Watt had the number 99 with him for a long time and it meant something to him, I think he'd be delighted to let him use the number."

Watt wanted official confirmation, so he had a phone conversation with Goldberg Tullos after seeing the article. 

She expressed the same sentiment.

"I'm very honored and touched that they thought of me in that way and that I can do that," Watt said in his introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon. "I told her that I would do everything in my power to honor him and to make him proud and make his legacy proud."

Watt gave a few ways that he would do this. 

For starters, he said he will donate to The Marshall Goldberg Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury Research, which was started by Goldberg's family to honor his memory after his passing in 2006. 

Watt also said he wants to have people learn about Goldberg's legacy and "remember the name."

Goldberg played eight seasons in the NFL. After his fourth year, he stepped away for two years to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. 

Upon his return, he helped the Cardinals win the 1947 NFL championship, the last time the franchise has done so. According to Pro-Football-Reference. com, Goldberg did not wear the No. 99 until he returned from the war. 

Goldberg is in the College Football Hall of Fame after becoming a two-time All-America at Pittsburgh, the same college as Cardinals wide receiver and likely first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, and he's a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. 

Goldberg was a seniors committee finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2008, but he fell short of reaching the hallowed halls of Canton. 

"He had a great story," Watt said. "When I saw the report about Ellen and her words that they would like me to wear it, I was touched. I felt gratitude and thanks because I thought that was a very special thing for them to do. And I'm extremely grateful for it."

Watt comes to the Cardinals from the Houston Texans as a five-time All-Pro and three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year. 

Watt is also a Walter Payton Man of the Year award recipient and he has already said that he has projects in the works in the Valley to continue his work in the community.