David Cornwell is the latest to wear the number 12, but can he be one of the greatest?
David Cornwell – Will the Pressure of Wearing #12 be Good or Bad?
By: Larry Burton
Years ago, I interviewed Greg McElroy on the pressure of wearing the number 12. Putting that number on was something he really wanted to do. In high school, McElroy wore No. 17, and that that was his number the first two years he was at Alabama. In 2008, he changed to No. 12.
He waited for both his chance to be a starter and to wear the number 12 jersey and the rest the say is history.
In talking to him about that back in 2009, he said, “Wearing No. 12 is special because it does have some notable history. But every jersey has a claim to fame of some sort. I’m just proud it’s an Alabama jersey.” But McElroy was more than aware of the fact that it was also worn by Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler and Pat Trammel, names that every real Alabama fan knows and reveres.
But on pressing him of his desire to change jersey numbers, he did say, “Some of the best quarterbacks at Alabama have worn this jersey and when it became available I did ask to change. It’s just something I wanted to be a part of.” McElroy said.
But Cornwell didn’t have to wait to become a starter or a star to get that jersey on his back, he sports it this year. But it’s not the first number he was given, the first was number five, one of the numbers he wore in high school. Like McElroy, getting the number 12 was something he wanted. He knew from day one that putting that number on his jersey and helmet would give fans reason to have high expectations from him, but it’s something he never dreamed of shying away from.
But that’s not to say that everyone who’s sported the number 12 at Alabama has been a star. Do you remember John Phillips, Robert Fraley, or Billy Ray? There are so many others who didn’t channel the powers from the number to become stars. Last year, it was worn by both Cornwell and redshirt sophomore defensive back Johnathon Cook, but this year Cook is sporting number 15. It’s just been worn by too many people for all of them to be great.
McElroy reminded me that it was worn by some people that may not ring a bell to most casual fans. It was worn by kickers, safeties, and a receiver. Greg also reminded me, that at least for a short time, the number was also worn by Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
In the Alabama locker room at Bryant Denny Stadium, the lockers have names of noteworthy people who shared each number with the current players. Back in early 2009 McElroy noted that his locker had Joe Namath, Pat Trammel, and Kenny Stabler, to name a few famous No. 12’s and I could tell that he hoped one day his exploits in the jersey would result in his name being added to that list.
“Wearing that jersey is special and I’m sure that some people will want to make comparisons, but you have to be your own man and play your own game. No two who ever wore this jersey has ever been the same as anyone else. But if I can help this team win games, get to the SEC Championship and contend for a title, that’s enough for me.” said McElroy.
And he did.
And so, every time David Cornwell goes to that locker, he’s reminded that only a select few get to have their names added to that locker plaque. Will that intimidate of drive the young redshirt freshman to not only win the starting job this fall, but leave a legacy that leaves his name written in “Crimson Flame” as the fight song goes?
Time will tell.
But at 6’5”, 240 pounds of muscle this former number one quarterback prospect in the nation is not one to bet against. When there isn’t a number one quarterback on a team like Alabama, the real job isn’t always won in the fall, but the long hot days of summer sometimes forge bonds between the quarterback and receivers who work together. They work on timing and develop an instinctual feel for where they’ll break their direction and where they like the ball.
Cornwell is doing that now and according to his twitter account, Chris Black, one of the men Alabama is counting on to be a prime target for the man who winds up being the signal caller, says that the work they’re doing together is going well. And while others may enjoy a summer taking vacations and lazy days, Cornwell plans to stay on campus and work with all the receivers.
So are the other men vying for that starting job and they’ll be working with those same receivers too.
But it’s hard to bet against number 12. There’s room on that locker plaque for another name and something tells me that Cornwell hopes it’s his name. And for the added pressure that the number brings to him, he welcomes it.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter
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