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'I Had to Step Up!’ CeeDee Lamb Accepts 88 Pressure, Helps Cowboys Win at Giants

CeeDee Lamb was recently granted an opportunity to sit down with the previous bearers of the Dallas Cowboys' most famous numerals.

Four Dallas Cowboys recently came together for an advertisement for Chipotle Mexican Grill. Their shared mark in Dallas' cherished past ... wearing the No. 88 ... produced some of the spiciest moments in team history.

And of course, because of the high profile of "The 88 Club,'' "spicy'' can sometimes turn sour. 

"I had to step up," CeeDee Lamb said late Monday after helping Dallas to a 23-16 win at New York. "It was mandatory. …  I was willing to do anything to make up for a touchdown, potentially, that I (dropped) …”

Lamb finished the game with a game-high eight catches (on 12 targets) for 87 yards and spectacular late TD that was in part the result of resilience and faith.

"CeeDee's got the 88 on for a reason," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "He's a superstar. He had a hell of a game. He had the one drop early, but he responded and had that big drive and big touchdown catch. CeeDee is a hell of a player and he's only going to get better."

He “got better” after the drop, and now Dallas is better, too, at 2-1. … as Lamb tries to live up to legends.

Lamb recently reflected on his time spent with his fellow double-eight legends in a visit with ESPN. The massive expectations placed upon Lamb, gargantuan as they were when he was chosen in the first round of the 2020 draft, were personified when the Cowboys stitched his name upon the jersey previously worn by Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin, and Dez Bryant. The previous three have left major marks on the receiving chapters of the Dallas record book that will be hard to erase. 

Lamb reminded that he originally had no interest in carrying on the legacy at first. With his collegiate digit No. 2 already taken by then-kicker Greg Zuerlein, Lamb instead wanted the non-descript 10, whose most famous previous Dallas bearer was likely Ron Widby, the team's punter from its first taste of glory in the late 1960s.

But, Lamb explained, it was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

"I didn't really want to, not really, not ruin that legacy, but I didn't know if it was OK with (the previous wearers first and foremost," Lamb said. "Second of all, I didn't want it to seem like it was a competition." 

Those who came before him, however, appeared more than happy to engage in such a competitive Cowboy contest. Upon congregating for the first time, the three veterans appeared to bond by first warning Lamb of the challenges and burdens the number holds.

"You do understand what's coming? You do understand this responsibility?' It's pressure for others. It's absolute promise for us," Irvin said he told Lamb. "You're in the middle of it all. It all comes through as pressure for a lot of people. It just so happens to be home for 88s."

Once the initial warnings were out of the way, the quartet spent several hours together, with Pearson claiming that time went by the wayside because "we were having a good time hanging out and talking." 

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Thus far, Lamb has fulfilled and dealt with the massive burdens the massive number carries. Going into Monday, he'd put up 2,141 yards on 162 receptions over his first two-plus seasons and served as the Cowboys' leading receiver en route to the NFC East title. 

And then came a sour-turned-spicy Monday.

Now, Lamb can't imagine another numeric brotherhood.

"It's literally become a part of me," Lamb said of his jersey, while acknowledging the pressures with it. "Playmaker (is Irvin's) his nickname ... His ability to come up big for the team, make big plays, his playoff runs, it's phenomenal." 

While often enshrining legends of the past into the team's "Ring of Honor" gameday display at AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys do not officially retire numbers. Several numbers have been unofficially removed from circulation, such as the No. 8 of Troy Aikman and No. 12 of Roger Staubach, who threw to Irvin and Pearson, respectively. 

No. 88, however, remains an active symbol of Dallas' victorious legacy, and it doesn't appear to be leaving the field any time soon.

"The Cowboys don't rate any other number like this," Pearson, the original wearer, said. "Two guys in the Hall of Fame. Holding it back for the next guy to wear is special. It's not just the Cowboys. Think about the 31 other teams. No other teams treat a number that way.

"The depth of it is amazing. No other team does it that way."

And on Monday, in the end, CeeDee Lamb did it the 88 way.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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