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Numbers you don't mess with in the Big 12

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Why college football jersey numbers matter

ESPN college football reporter Adam Rittenberg explains the significance of college football's most recognizable and revered jersey numbers.

At one point they were just another number.

Now they hold a special place in the history of a program thanks to the exceptional efforts of a single player (with a few exceptions). Here's a team-by-team look at a special number at each football program in the Big 12.

Baylor: No. 10

The Bears have had some outstanding players come through the program such as Mike Singletary, Santana Dotson and Thomas Everett.

Yet Robert Griffin III holds a special place in Waco. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner helped change the culture when he signed with Baylor and then went on to star in green and gold. His No. 10 jersey is considered off limits and his locker is enclosed in glass.

Iowa State: No. 28

The best running back in Iowa State history rushed for more than 2,000 yards in a single season twice during his time in Ames. Troy Davis rushed for 4,382 yards in three seasons at ISU. Although it is not officially retired, nobody has worn No. 28 at ISU since Davis' dominance in the mid-1990s.

Kansas: No. 48

Before he made Chicago Bears fans gasp at his greatness, Gale Sayers was a Kansas Jayhawk. His No. 48 jersey has been retired in Lawrence. The two-time All-American rushed for 2,675 yards during his time as a Jayhawk. Nobody will ever wear No. 48 at Kansas, and rightly so.

Kansas State: No. 1

When was the last time you saw someone making plays in the No. 1 jersey at Kansas State? It doesn’t happen under Bill Snyder, as the veteran coach doesn’t hand out the No. 1 purple jersey. While Snyder has never publicly declared the reasoning, it makes sense to assume the individuality the No. 1 jersey has come to represent doesn't vibe with the team-first tone of Snyder's program. So don’t expect to see any Kansas State stars in the No. 1 anytime soon.

Oklahoma: No. 47

The Sooners have a policy of not retiring numbers, largely because of the laundry list of candidates who would deserve consideration, but a reader of The Oklahoman had the idea to retire the No. 47 jersey in honor of OU’s 47-game winning streak. Sounds like a pretty good idea.

Oklahoma State: No. 21

Would you want to try to live up to the greatest single season in college football history? Barry Sanders No. 21 jersey would come with plenty of lofty expectations. More than 25 years later, it doesn't seem likely anyone will approach Sanders' 1988 numbers -- 2,628 rushing yards during a 11-game season -- anytime soon.

Texas: No. 60

Tommy Nobis' No. 60 is a special number on the 40 Acres, with linebacker Derrick Johnson even wearing Nobis' number for his final home game at Texas in 2004. “I think by wearing it, people will have a chance to remember what a great player he was and all of the other guys that wore 60,” Johnson said at the time. Nobis was a two-time All-American who averaged nearly 20 tackles per game during his time at Texas.

TCU: No. 45

“Slinging Sammy” Baugh put TCU on the map in the mid-1930s. A multi-sport athlete who also played baseball at TCU, Baugh did it all on his way to All-American status twice and leading TCU to a pair of bowl victories. He went on to revolutionize the forward pass in the NFL.

Texas Tech: No. 44

A two-time All-American in the 1960s, Donny Anderson was nicknamed the “Golden Palamino.” He averaged 4.5 yards per carry and finished with 2,280 rushing yards during his Red Raiders career. The greatest nickname on the list also finished fourth in the 1965 Heisman Trophy race.

West Virginia: No. 21

Ira Rodgers did it all for the Mountaineers in the late 1910s. Not only a standout on the gridiron, Rodgers was a team captain for the football, basketball and baseball teams, then went on to coach the Mountaineers football, baseball and golf teams. He was West Virginia's first-ever consensus All-American after leading the nation with 147 points, including 19 touchdowns, in 1919.