The Cowboys don't usually make a big production out of assigning the rookie jersey numbers, but as of yesterday, all seven rookies from the 2013 draft class (although not the undrafted free agents) have their numbers:
|70||Zack Martin||OG||Notre Dame|
|90||Demarcus Lawrence||DE||Boise State|
|40||Will Smith||OLB||Texas Tech|
|66||Ken Bishop||DT||Northern Illinois|
Different Dallas Cowboys jersey numbers will have different meanings for different people. Some of the numbers will be strongly associated with one particular player, some won't. And that association to a given player strongly depends on how far back your memory goes as a Cowboys fan. Here's a summary of some of the more prominent former Cowboys to have worn the numbers now being sported by the 2013 rookie class:
Some fans will look at Zack Martin's No. 70 (worn last year by Travis Frederick, and the year before by Tyrone Crawford) and recognize Leonard Davis' old number, others will realize that this number once belonged to Hall Of Famer Rayfield Wright.
Lawrence's No. 90 is Jay Ratliff's old number. Ratliff left the Cowboys under acrimonious circumstances, but in the eight seasons he played for the Cowboys, Ratliff worked his way up from a lowly seventh-round pick to four Pro Bowls and one All-Pro nod.
The most recognizable previous owner of Anthony Hitchens' No. 59 is easily Dat Nguyen, who wore the number from 1999-2005 in Dallas. Nguyen was a third-round pick for the Cowboys and became a starter in 2001. The slightly undersized Nguyen never received any postseason accolades, but was a fan favorite regardless. His career ended with an injury in 2005. Some may also remember LB Darrin Smith as a guy who wore No. 59. Drafted in the second round out of Miami, Smith played for four years in Dallas and earned three Super Bowl rings before leaving in free agency and playing eight more years in Philadelphia, Seattle and New Orleans.
The No. 15 assigned to Devin Street was most recently worn by Michael Spurlock in Weeks 16 and 17 last season. More prominent previous owners include Toni Fritsch, an Austrian-born kicker who played for the Cowboys from 1971-75, as well as Babe Laufenberg, who is better known for being a Dallas TV personality than for the two years he was the backup QB for the Cowboys in 1989-90.
Ben Gardner's No. 71 is the number worn by Mark Tuinei over a 15-year career with the Cowboys. Tuinei joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 1983 and played defensive end for two years before switching to offensive tackle. He became the team's starting left tackle in 1986 and would play the position until he retired after the 1997 season.
Will Smith's No. 40 was last worn by UDFA Danny McCray from 2010-2013, but for most Cowboys fans Bill Bates is the guy most closely associated with the No. 40 jersey. If there is such a thing, then Bill Bates was the first true special teams demon in the league. In 1984, Bates was selected to the Pro Bowl, forcing the NFL to create the special teams category for the Pro Bowl. He joined the Cowboys as an UDFA in 1983, and appeared in 217 games for the Cowboys over a 15-year career. Tom Landry once said, "If we had 11 players on the field who played as hard as Bill Bates does and did their homework like he does, we’d be almost impossible to beat."
Ahmad Dixon's No. 36 is noteworthy for not being noteworthy: Even after carefully researching the number, there aren't really any standout players in Cowboys history who wore this number.
Ken Bishop got the No. 66 jersey, whose most famous prior owner was DE George Andrie, who wore the number for 11 seasons from 1962-72, during which he was nominated for five Pro Bowls and got one All Pro nod. Playing next to Bob Lilly for his entire career, the two formed a cornerstone of the original "Doomsday Defense." The league didn't record sacks at the time, but the Cowboys did, and Andrie ranks fifth on the all-time franchise leaderboard with 97 sacks, with a high of 18.5 sacks in 1966 (over a 14-game season).
We also have to go pretty far back for Terrance Mitchell's No. 30 jersey, as that number's claim to fame came when Dan Reeves wore it for the Cowboys between 1965-72 as a running back. After a knee injury in 1968, he only played sparingly and became a player coach for three years in Dallas before embarking on a coaching career that ultimately saw him reach the Super Bowl four times as a head coach..
If you're interested, you can browse all the Cowboys' jersey numbers and their history at Know Your Dallas Cowboys.com.