- Greg Katz, Columnist, WeAreSC.com
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LOS ANGELES – One could make a strong case that the most feared jersey number in all of high school football in 2013 was No. 21, worn by consensus All-American Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), the superstar wide receiver/corner, who signed his letter of intent with the USC Trojans last Wednesday.
And there was no more feared number the past generation in college football than jersey No. 5, worn by the electrifying but polarizing former Trojans Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.
It’s possible Jackson and Bush, two incredibly dynamite performers, might be linked together through jersey No. 5, the one once worn by Mr. Reggie during his Trojans playing days in the Coliseum.
You see, Adoree’ says one of the major reasons he fell in love with Trojans football is because of Bush, which is a common theme with a number of USC recruits. Such is Jackson’s adulation of the current Detroit Lions running back that he has made it known he would like to wear No. 5 in honor of his idol.
Naturally, Jackson’s Trojans jersey number desire has heated up message boards considerably -- pro and con -- largely because of Bush’s and/or his family’s alleged indiscretions and the ensuing NCAA draconian sanctions.
There is no question the NCAA was mean, cruel, heartless and vindictive in its sanctions directive against USC, but one can’t escape the conclusion that Bush probably wasn’t exactly an innocent bystander either.
Bush, the disgraced Heisman Trophy winner, never really apologized to his alma mater. It’s entirely possible, however, that the former No. 5 can’t because of potential jurisprudence issues. What is true is that the former Trojans All-American tailback won’t be seen walking through the celebrated John McKay Center or recently renovated Heritage Hall anytime soon.
You can argue until the Coliseum torch is lit a thousand times the merits -- just or unjust -- as it regards to Bush. You can find enough Bush fans believing he has been wrongly branded and his full rights should be restored. Many are awaiting the final verdict in the Todd McNair case against the NCAA to see if Bush will be given some sort of “pass” over the whole sordid affair.
So the question becomes: Should Adoree’ Jackson be allowed to wear No. 5 and by doing so honoring Reggie Bush?
You can bet at some point that Trojans athletic director Pat Haden and first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian will be huddled either before or with Jackson regarding No. 5.
It’s a fact Bush’s jersey number is no longer retired; however USC has given every indication that No. 5 is not a jersey number that is being encouraged to wear. Maybe with NCAA sanctions officially over in June, the No. 5 stigma can be overlooked.
It’s a fact the Trojans have done everything in their power to remove anything visually Bush on campus other than the football media guide records.
It’s also a fact you no longer see a giant, cardinal No. 5 jersey hanging next to the other Trojans Heisman Trophy winners on the peristyle end of the Coliseum on game days.
Haden acknowledged early in his administrative tenure the greatness of Bush as a player, and he added that he hoped “someday” Bush would again return to the cardinal and gold fold.
That being said, the question still in hand is if he requests it, should Jackson be allowed to wear No. 5?
It’s our belief that despite the abyss brought on by the Bush fiasco and the ensuing NCAA sanctions, if his uniform number is available, Jackson should be allowed to wear it.
Jackson has graciously said for public record that if he can’t wear No. 5, he would be agreeable to wearing some other number. Currently, his high school number, No. 21, is being worn by freshman All-America safety Su’a Cravens.
With No. 21 already taken, maybe there is a better option. Young kids growing up watching Jackson wearing a new cardinal number like 2 or 7 could, in essence, allow him to create his own identity and legacy and not carry on somebody else’s.
Obviously, Jackson knows that by wearing No. 5 it places him directly in the media spotlight. Maybe the kid is media savvy and emotionally strong enough to handle the scrutiny. No doubt if allowed to wear No. 5 Jackson would be in the national conversation before he has even touched a ball.
Maybe by Jackson wearing No. 5, it’s actually a good thing. Maybe all Trojans can move on from what No. 5 has represented in the past.
Maybe Jackson will be such a prolific performer on and off the field that by wearing No. 5, he is the one who will be identified for wearing that number in the future.
And maybe by wearing No. 5, Jackson will be everything that Bush was without the sorry collegiate ending, excommunication from Troy, and the return of the Heisman Trophy.
As always, football remains a game of numbers. Just ask Adoree’ Jackson.
9hKevin Gemmell and Erik McKinney