Numbers Count

Oct. 18, 2012

by Sal Interdonato, Times Herald-Record

Momo Kime calls it coincidence.

But maybe, Kime, an Army junior tackle, was destined to wear No. 78.

Kime's father, Bill, was No. 78 during his Army career, which included a 1984 Cherry Bowl championship.

So when, Kime was switched from center to right tackle, his father's position, in the offseason, there was only one number he wanted.

"I always say to him we wear the same number and play the same position but I'm going to be better than you," Momo said. "I'm going to be the best Kime to wear 78." Kime's decision went even deeper than family tradition. Brad Kelly, who mentored him at tackle, wore 78 last season.

"I know the number means a lot to my father," Kime said. "Brad Kelly was a big influence on me too. So I know what that number represents not only for my family but the Army football team as well."

There's a lot of competition for jersey numbers at West Point. Army's roster has 152 players.

Numbers are shared on offense and defense, which could make following along at a game or on television difficult. Fifteen numbers were worn by two players in Army's game against Kent State last week.

Numbers change from year to year. Few players hold onto the same number through their career.

Seniority generally rules. Most freshmen are limited in their choice of numbers. Some don't get a choice.

Trent Steelman: 8
Steelman's No. 8 will be remembered in Army football history for years to come. Steelman is Army's all-time leading rusher and scorer as a quarterback. But, the number wasn't Steelman's choice. "That's the number they gave me," Steelman said. "When I was a freshman, I saw that their (coach Rich Ellerson's) quarterback (Jonathan Dally) from Cal Poly was No. 8. Maybe that's why they gave it to me when I got here. I have no idea. They gave it to me my freshman year and I thought it was a good option number." The number stuck. Steelman wore 16 in high school.

Nate Combs: 22
Nate Combs has worn three numbers in his Army career - 95 as a freshman, 45 his sophomore year and 22 for his junior and senior seasons. Why did Combs switch to 22? "One of my best friends wore 22 in high school. He went to Western Kentucky and he had to quit football because he had a kid. I decided to wear 22 in honor of him. He was at the (Boston College) game, sitting right with my family. Once I made that big hit (on the third play of the game), I ran over right to him and fist bumped. That was awesome."

Will Wilson: 66
When Army senior center Will Wilson wears No. 66, it's not only a tribute to his father. Sam Wilson was a 1966 West Point graduate. "My dad asked me to do it," Wilson said. "I couldn't say no. I was real superstitious when I had my own number. Now, I really like wearing 66. It's not so much about me but it's representing my dad's class and it's for my dad. He's always out there. He comes to all my games. It's my little thing I can do for him."

Chevaughn Lawrence: 21
The No. 21 has been in Chevaughn Lawrence's family for years. His father and grandfather donned 21 in their high school basketball days. So did Lawrence in football at O'Fallon (Ill.) High and Army Prep.
"I just grew up wearing 21," Lawrence said. "When I got here, I had to wear 84 for (freshman) year. It was terrible. They let me switch over to 21. That's probably the number I will stay with." Lawrence had one catch as a freshman. He leads the team with 10 catches and 186 yards, wearing 21 this season.

Andrew Ellerson: 87
Ellerson, a freshman long snapper and son of Army coach Rich Ellerson, wears the same number as his uncle, John, who was captain of the 1962 West Point football team.

Jared Hassin: 7
Hassin's father, Donald, a 1971 West Point graduate, bought his son, Jared, a No. 7 Army jersey when he was in the third grade. Quarterback Ronnie McAda, Army's then No. 7, was Hassin's favorite player growing up. The jersey has gone through a few repairs but it still lives. Hassin's girlfriend sometimes wears the jersey to home games.

Geoff Bacon and Trenton Turrentine: 6
Trenton Turrentine gave his best friend a warning. Turrentine, a sophomore running back, was switching from No. 30 to 6, his old high school number, this season. Bacon, a sophomore linebacker, wears 6 on defense. Let the competition begIn. "Since the offseason, there's been a friendly rivalry to see who is going to be the best No. 6 on the team, the best No. 6 on the field at any given time," Turrentine said. Bacon didn't begin his career as No. 6. He was wearing 27 when fifth-year senior Kingsley Ehie asked for his number back during last season. Bacon, as an underclassman, obliged and the two switched.

Retired numbers
There are four numbers that are retired and no longer worn by Army football players and another number that is not given out. Here is the list:
24: Pete Dawkins, 1958 Heisman Trophy winner
35: Felix "Doc" Blanchard, 1945 Heisman Trophy winner
41: Glenn "Mr. Outside" Davis, 1946 Heisman Trophy winner
61: Joe Steffy, 1947 Outland Trophy winner
12: Represents the Corps of Cadets or the 12th man.

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