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Right jersey number can make you look good, feel good and play well

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jalen Ramsey isn’t going to be back on the field for the Jacksonville Jaguars until training camp, and when he is, he’ll be wearing No. 38.

And hating every minute of it.

The rookie cornerback wanted to wear No. 23, but that belongs to second-year safety James Sample and, as he told ESPN last month, he’s not giving it up. It means so much to him that even a rumored offer of $30,000 won’t change his mind.

So Ramsey will be stuck wearing 38 -- until training camp cuts and a better number becomes available.

Ramsey’s desire for a specific number, and Sample’s resistance to giving one up, might seem odd, but it’s commonplace in the Jaguars’ locker room and across the league. To some players, their uniform number is as much a part of their identity as their name. Some players even believe it’s the reason they play well.

"That’s what people see you in. It’s who you are," defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. "You can make any number look good if you’re out there balling, but at the same time you want to have what you feel comfortable in.

"If you don’t feel good in 69, then you might not play good. It’s more of a mental thing."

Players choose numbers for a variety of reasons. A family member or someone special may have worn it and they want to pay tribute. It has a special meaning based on something that happened in their lives. It’s the number they’ve always worn.

Sometimes it’s because they just like the number or feel that it looks good.

Jackson, who signed a six-year, $90 million contract with the Jaguars in March, wanted No. 97 because that’s what he wore in Denver the past three seasons (he wore 70 as a rookie). However, nose tackle Roy Miller didn’t want to part with it. Like Sample, the number has a special meaning for Miller. He’s wearing it to pay tribute to former Bears defensive lineman Tommie Harris, whose wife died of a suspected brain aneurism or strike less than two months after they were married.

Harris wore No. 97 while at Oklahoma.

"I told him I dedicate that number to him and all the stuff that he went through with his wife, the struggles in his life and the way he fought through life," Miller said. "For me, you put all that kind of stuff together, it’s more than a number.

"At the end of the day, you move team to team, you get different numbers. It’s just part of it. But at this stage of my life, it kind of does mean something to me."

Jackson understood and said he was fine with wearing 90, which he said was a good number.

And yes, there are good numbers and bad numbers. Those, too, are pretty personal.

"I don’t like odd numbers," rookie linebacker Myles Jack said. "That’s kind of like my thing. I like even numbers."

That’s why he was very happy to get 44.

"I figured pretty much all the 50 numbers were taken and they were like, ‘What do you think about 44?’" Jack said. "I kind of always have the mentality like I’ll make the number. I definitely want a nice looking number, something that I can kind of feel myself in, but I feel like I can make 44 something special."

Jackson doesn’t want to wear anything in the 60s or 70s. Unlike Jack, guard A.J. Cann does like odd numbers, and yet he’s wearing No. 60 because it was similar to the number he wore in college at South Carolina (50), which was already taken by linebacker Telvin Smith.

Then there’s cornerback Aaron Colvin, who doesn’t like any number given to defensive backs above 35. If fact, he said Ramsey can’t wear 38, and broke out a bit of number science to explain why.

"It depends on your body size," Colvin said. "See, this is getting intricate into the whole number thing. If you’ve got more of a bigger, wider body like a safety, like a Cyp [safety Johnathan Cyprien], he can rock 37, 38. Jalen, he’s a tall, long guy. He’s got to get more of a slimmer number."

Colvin also makes a bit of an exception for cornerback Nick Marshall, who wears No. 41, which is squarely in Colvin’s bad range.

"See, 41 is the best 40 number because it’s slim," Colvin said. "The 1 is slim, so you can get away with that."

Colvin wears 22, which he called the perfect number. He believes it’s a factor in how well he plays, too. He’s not the only player to feel that way, either.

"Honestly, for me, if I feel good, I feel like I play better," Colvin said. "It’s like a confidence thing for me. If I like the number, if I feel like I’m looking good, I’m out there.

"Not everybody’s that way. But if you listen to guys like Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, they always said, ‘Look good, play good, you feel good.’ I’m the same way. But there are some guys that can really go out there in anything and play at a high level. It just depends."

Defensive end Tyson Alualu falls into that category. He has worn 93 since the Jaguars drafted him 10th overall in the 2010 draft, but he’s not a fanatic about it.

"I came into the league wearing that number so I would want to try and keep it -- unless somebody offered me 30 grand, 50 grand," he said. "It might be different."

That's a set of numbers that mean a lot, too.