Falcons Halt Russell Gage From Wearing a Legend’s Number

Russell Gage

Getty Wide receiver Russell Gage #83 of the Atlanta Falcons.

The NFL has relaxed its jersey number rules and some players have opted to make a change, including Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage.

Gage will switch from wearing No. 83 to No. 14 next season, but that was not the original number he requested to change to.

The third-year wideout asked to wear No. 10, but the Falcons wouldn’t allow it.

“I wanted something different, something fresh,” Gage told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Consitution. “I actually tried to get 10, but it’s retired. I understand. I just wanted something fresh, something new.”

The Falcons don’t ever “retire” numbers but they do attempt to leave them untouched in the Ring of Honor and the only way to get to wear a legend’s number would be to match or outdo the previous player.

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Who Was No. 10?

No. 10 belongs to Falcons’ legendary quarterback from 1975-85, Steve Bartkowski.

The Cal Berkley product was selected with the first overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft by Atlanta. He ended his first NFL campaign as Rookie of the Year. He made history

Through 10 seasons in the league, Bartkowski became one of 10 QBs in NFL history to throw consecutive 30-touchdown passing seasons (1980 and 1981). During that span, he also notched two Pro Bowls and was selected 2nd Team All-NFC. He set a record with at least three TD passes in five straight home games which was not broken until 2004 by Payton Manning.

In 1983, Bartkowski led the league with a passer rating of 97.6. The following season, an injury cut his season short and when he tried to bounce back in ’85, an 0 and 5 start led to his release.

Bartkowski signed with the LA Rams in ’86, but still couldn’t find his spark. Rams’ rookie Jim Everett took the starting job and Bartkowski retired after the season. In 2007, he was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

QB Scott Campbell was the last Falcons player to wear No. 10 from 1986-1990, but he didn’t wear it quite as well and it’s been untouched ever since.

Other jersey numbers in the Ring of Honor that have not been worn again are No. 60 Tommy Nobis and No. 31 William Andrews.


Gage is Ready to Fill Julio Jones’s Shoes

With Julio Jones no longer an Atlanta Falcon, the sky is the limit for Gage who is expected to be the Falcons’ No. 2 WR.

“I understand my role may have increased, but I’m ready for it,” Gage said, via the Falcons’ official website “We’re going to keep moving forward.”

The Falcons drafted Gage in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft where he reeled in just six catches for 63 yards. His production increased the following year when Atlanta traded WR Mohamed Sanu in the middle of the 2019 season and Gage finished with  49 catches for 446 yards and a touchdown.

In 2020, Gage continued to rise up with 72 catches for 786 yards and four touchdowns. Hopefully, he can go beyond those numbers in 2021, which could earn him the No. 10 jersey for his fourth year.

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