The Dallas Cowboys are one of the very few franchises that don’t retire jersey numbers. That’s why you’ll see players like CeeDee Lamb wearing No. 88 after Dez Bryant and Michael Irvin did so and how Tyler Smith is able to wear Larry Allen’s No. 73. When the list of rookie jersey numbers was released, there were many numbers that stood out. Perhaps one that wasn’t so flashy was fourth-rounder Jake Ferguson’s choice of No. 48.
That number was worn by Daryl “Moose” Johnston, a fullback who played for the Cowboys for 11 seasons. From 1989 to 1999, Moose helped Dallas win three Super Bowls as a steady blocker. Johnston was an integral part of the reason Emmitt Smith went on to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Ferguson will be the first pass-catcher to ever wear the number.
The fourth-rounder is well aware of the significance of No. 48 and is ready to live up to it. The Wisconsin tight end is the grandson of longtime Badgers football coach Barry Alvarez. Alvarez worked with Johnston as a football broadcaster on FOX and made sure his grandson knew how important that number was to this franchise.
Although the fullback wasn’t a tight end, the legacy of the jersey number comes with blocking excellence and grit – two things the Wisconsin product hopes to bring to the Cowboys.
Jake Ferguson hopes to live up to the legacy of Daryl “Moose” Johnston by wearing No. 48 for the Cowboys
Despite the fact that blocking wasn’t necessarily Ferguson’s favorite part of the game, he certainly understands its importance, especially after his time in Madison.
“Going to Wisconsin, that’s first, second, pretty much third down we’re blocking. If it’s six yards, we think we can get it on the ground and we’re going to go for it/ Finally getting through those five years at Wisconsin, that’s something I love doing. That’s all it is – a mindset in the trenches. You’ve got to love it.”
Steady blocking from a tight end is certainly something the Cowboys could use. While Dalton Schultz excelled in receptions and touchdowns last year, he still wasn’t the best blocker when it came to the run and passing game. If Ferguson can solidify himself as both a great pass catcher and blocker, he could absolutely earn himself some major reps in his rookie season with Dallas. It’s something Ferguson’s new head coach is certainly looking for:
“The play style that we’ve established here, he definitely fits into that. But the versatility to play on the ball, off the ball, we talked about it a little bit (last week). He has experience already playing in a pro punt formation (on special teams), just little things like that, just because of the way Paul (Chryst) plays up there at Wisconsin. It’s definitely that we need more of, and I think Jake’s an excellent fit for us.” — Mike McCarthy
Maybe the storied history of the number he is wearing will give the new tight end the boost he needs to make a name for himself in 2022.