Blessing or a Curse? Which Rookie Was Given Bob Lilly’s Iconic #74?
The Cowboys do not retire jersey numbers, period. End of story. Only one player in team history, however, has ever worn #74: Bob Lilly.
In team history, Lilly was “the first” of many things. He was the first-ever draft pick (1961), first Ring of Honor member (1975), first Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee (1980), first to double-digit Pro Bowls (11). He’s “Mr. Cowboy”, for goodness sake! But each summer, Cowboys equipment manager Mike McCord hands out a #74 jersey. McCord has to do so because there are so many linemen on a 90-man camp roster that somebody is going to get #74. There’s just no getting around it. So who got #74 this go round?
Joey Ivie, a defensive tackle from the University of Florida, is #74. He was selected by the Cowboys in 7th round of the 2017 Draft with the 228th overall pick. If you were watching television on Day 3 of the draft (or subsequently saw the video snippet on social media), you’ll recall that Ivie’s selection is the one which defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli celebrated with fist pumps in the Draft War Room.
Ivie wore #91 in college for the Florida Gators, but that number is currently occupied on the Cowboys’ roster by 13-year veteran long snapper L.P. Ladouceur.
Upon arriving at The Star in Frisco for rookie orientation, Ivie could not get #91 because of Ladouceur. Instead, he was given Lilly’s number.
To be honest, most of the rookies over previous years had no idea that 74 is an iconic number in Cowboys’ history. But Ivie learned quickly about the number’s history.
“My dad actually told me, ‘You know, that’s Bob Lilly’s number!’ and I was, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ It’s an honor to wear this number,” says Ivie. “He was such a great player and definitely a guy I look up to. It’s definitely an honor to be able to wear this number. It’s awesome.”
Will Ivie be wearing #74 by September when the regular season rolls around? If history is any indication, the answer is no.
Again, there is no Cowboys’ in-house rule prohibiting wearing #74. But since Lilly retired following the 1974, no one else has worn it in a regular season game.
Here’s what usually happens.
The young players given #74 in the offseason are usually long-shots to make the team. Many of them are released during training camp. But for guys like Ivie – a draft pick with a good chance of making the team – if they survive training camp and make the 53-man roster or practice squad, they are given a different number.
Once all roster cuts are made, other jersey numbers in the 60-99 range will become available. So if Joey Ivie makes the roster, he’ll likely be wearing the jersey number of a lineman who didn’t survive the final roster cuts.
As for now, Ivie is enjoying his chance to represent Lilly proudly. After all, he plays the same position as Mr. Cowboy. He’s also enjoying learning more about all aspects of the team’s rich tradition as he walks the hallways of The Star.
“It’s unbelievable, literally walking in here and seeing the facilities,” notes Ivie. “This organization has it better than most in the country. I feel like a kid in a candy shop.”
As for Coach Marinelli’s reaction to Ivie’s selection in the 7th round, Ivie has seen the viral video.
“Yeah, that made me smile,” he says of Marinelli’s fist pumps. “It’s always great when a coach likes you and appreciates what you do on the field. It means a lot to me. It shows me he cares and wants to coach me up. I’m an effort guy and I’ll work hard. That’s part of staying humble.
“My expectations are to get my butt kicked. We all have it coming. It will be a heavy load but it’s nothing we can’t handle. It’s about being mentally tough and making it through without showing any mental weakness.”