In the time since the sudden and devastating news of Junior Seau’s death hit us on Wednesday morning, there’s been rumblings that the Trojans should retire the former USC linebacker’s iconic number 55. But while it would be a fitting touch to Seau and his family to retire the number outright, maintaining its mystique as a special number at USC reserved for a specific brand of linebacker, is a greater tribute to Seau and his lasting legacy at USC.
Since Seau left USC after the 1989 season, just six players, including current middle linebacker Lamar Dawson, have worn the number. Three of those six were All-Americans and one of them, Chris Claiborne, was the first and only Trojan to win the Butkus Award.
For the last quarter century, the iconic status of the No. 55 at USC is unique to itself. Sure, Michigan had a string of wide receivers with No. 1, but no other school has anything close to as special and honorable as USC’s Club 55.
There’s something magic about seeing the 55 dart across the field in a blitz package, or make a zone read and come up with a crucial interception late in a game. It’s what is expected from its wearers, and the awe of the number is always noted whenever a new player is crowned as a member of Club 55.
On Twitter last night, Keith Rivers spoke to us about the number, telling us that to each member of Club 55, the number had a huge impact and was bigger than the individual player, as it represented the legendary players that came before them, holding players to a higher standard. And of course, all of it started with Junior Seau.
“It started with him and lived through all of the 55s that carry the torch,” said Rivers on Thursday night, which exemplifies the notion that passing the 55 in Seau’s honor is more of a tribute than retiring the number itself. Not to mention, that if USC was to retire the number in Seau’s honor, it would have to be retired in the same name of Willie McGinest, Chris Claiborne and Keith Rivers, even though it was Seau that started the trend.
There’s so many ways to honor Seau as a Trojan than simply retiring the most iconic number in USC history, and ways that would single him out more as a n individual than an act that would defy USC tradition, as historically, only Heisman winners get their jerseys retired at USC.
A part of the new John McKay Athletic Center could be named in his honor. The tunnel at the Coliseum could be branded with the Seau name, or a statue of him could grace the Peristyle end of the Coliseum once the university assumes control of the Coliseum.
The truth is, that while wanting to retire Seau’s number is an understandable reactionary response to the untimely death of Seau, there’s more honor in passing on the 55 to worthy recipients and finding more singular ways to serve as tributes to Seau, than retiring a number tied to so many great Trojans.
What do you think USC should do with the 55? Should the Trojans retire the number or do you have a better idea? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below.