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J.J. Watt can wear Arizona Cardinals’ retired No. 99 jersey after all

J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans returns an interception for a touchdown during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 26, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Having spent his entire career thus far with the Houston Texans, defensive end J.J. Watt has only worn the number 99 on the back of his jersey. He also wore it during his college career at Wisconsin.

When he parted ways with Houston and on Monday agreed to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, a number change seemed certain.

That’s because the Cardinals franchise retired the No. 99 jersey under Marshall Goldberg’s name. The four-time All-Pro who played halfback and defensive back appeared for the then-Chicago Cardinals from 1939–1943 and 1946–1948, with service for the Navy during World War II splitting those stints.

Goldberg’s daughter, however, gave Watt her family’s blessing to wear his jersey number if it’s that important to him.

Ellen Goldberg Tullos told TMZ Sports that her father would welcome allowing Watt to keep his number.

“He has my blessings,” Tullos said of Watt, “and I’m sure my father would be more than delighted for him to carry it on.

“Well, I know dad was really honored when they retired his number but also he’s always respected other players,” Tullos added to TMZ. “And, if J.J. Watt had the number 99 with him for a long time and it meant something to him, I think he’d be delighted to let him use the number and unretire or whatever the proper word would be.”

Watt addressed his future jersey number and the blessing he received from Tullos to continue wearing No. 99 during his introductory press conference on Tuesday.

“This morning when I woke up, I saw the TMZ report and it said that somebody had reached out to her and that she had given her blessing for me to wear No. 99 and that they would be honored if I would do that,” Watt said. “And so I wanted to hear it from her directly, I wanted to make sure and confirm that. And we had a great conversation.”

Watt said that Tullos was very generous about letting him use her late father’s number saying she told Watt that Goldberg would be proud to see someone like him wear No. 99 for the Cardinals.

“So I’m very touched and very honored that they thought of me in that way and that they’d do that,” Watt said. “I told her that I’d do everything in my power to honor him and to make him proud and make his legacy proud.”

Watt joining the Cardinals also sets up another potentially unique jersey situation.

According to Uni-Watch.com’s Paul Lukas, receiver Larry Fitzgerald returning to Arizona for his 18th season would give the Cardinals a first in NFL history. Both have won an NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year honor — Fitzgerald in 2016 and Watt in 2017.

The annual winners wear jersey patches for the rest of their NFL careers, but two winners have never been teammates.


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