FRISCO, Texas. They have one of the most famous numbers in Dallas Cowboys history, but until a couple of months ago they were never in the same room together.
They were at a house in Dallas filming a Chipotle commercial featuring The 88 Club – Drew Pearson, Michael Irwin, Dez Bryant and CD Lamb – and it was like they were brothers from the start, swapping stories for hours.
“No one kept track of the time because we were having a good time hanging out and talking,” Pearson said.
Irvine said, “Because we swim in the same waters. We know the expectations that come with 88. What was so great, we all sat there and looked at CeeDee:
“Do you understand what is coming? Do you understand this responsibility? This is pressure on others. This is an absolute promise to us. … You are at the center of it all. All this manifests itself as pressure for many people. It just so happens to be the home of the 88s.”
No. 88 became a symbol of Cowboy greatness, mostly passed down from one great receiver to the next.
“Cowboys don’t rate any other number like this,” said Pearson, who calls himself The Original 88. “Two guys in the Hall of Fame. Holding it back for the next guy to wear is something special. It’s not just Cowboys. Think of 31 other teams.
“The depth of this is amazing. No other team does it this way.”
Pearson went from an undrafted free agent, a former Tulsa college quarterback, to a Hall of Famer as a wide receiver from 1973 to 1983.
Irvin became a Playmaker from 1988 to 1999, winning three Super Bowls and earning his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 2010, the Cowboys traded in the first round to draft Bryant, and from 2012 to 2014 he was one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL.
In 2020, the Cowboys never thought Lamb would be available at No. 17 in the first round; he was the sixth player on their draft board. Since being drafted by Dallas, Lamb has produced the most receptions (153) and second most receiving yards (2,037) of any receiver in the first two seasons in team history.
“It literally became a part of me”
Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb on heritage wearing #88
Cowboys NOT pension numbers – officially.
No one has worn number 12 since quarterback Roger Staubach ended in 1979. No one has worn number 8 since quarterback Troy Aikman, or number 22 since running back Emmit Smith. Bob “Mr. Cowboy” Lilly’s #74 defensive tackle has been used several times in preseason games over the years, but never in regular season games.
Twelve different players have worn number 88 in Cowboys history, including linebacker and player/kicker, but receivers have made it theirs.
There were exceptions. Tight end Jackie Harris wore it from 2000 to 2001. Antonio Bryant wore it after being selected in the second round in 2002. Then came tight end Brett Pierce.
Pierce is currently President and CEO of Elite Dental Alliance and Managing Partner of 7 Pillars in Plano, Texas.
In 2005, he wore #88.
“One of these things is not like the other, I suppose, is it?” he joked.
Pierce wore number 49 in 2004. A year later, he simply asked to switch to number 88 when it became available because it was the jersey he wore at Stanford.
“I probably wasn’t as conscious of it when I asked for the number as I am now,” said Pierce, who had two catches for 15 yards in 18 games. “I’m not sure I would ask now. This is a very special number. There are a lot of 88 T-shirts in Dallas. None of them say “Pierce”. I can take some credit for myself.”
Jerry Jones was not yet owner and general manager of the Cowboys when he realized the significance of No. 88. He sat in a room with Staubach at Texas Stadium, watching Tom Landry’s Cowboys play against Bill Parcells’ New York Giants before he bought the team.
“Roger was talking about 88,” Jones said. “I only think about it with the Cowboys.”
Pearson did not wear. 3 in Tulsa. As a high school student in South River, New Jersey, he wore No. 15 in road games and No. 73 in home games.
“The uniform company mixed up the numbers,” Pearson said.
When he joined the Cowboys in 1973, he was initially given No. 13. He recalled a conversation with defenseman Harvey Martin, who later shared the Super Bowl MVP award (with defenseman Randy White).
“I said, ‘Harvey, they got me. They’re going to cut me out. They gave me number 13,” Pearson said. “My first preseason opportunity at the LA Coliseum was a kickback in the third quarter, and I missed it. That was my start in the NFL.”
But the Cowboys didn’t kill Pearson. When he got into the lineup, he was finally able to pick a number in the 80s. He could choose 85 or 87.
“85 sounded wrong. 87? Of course not,” Pearson said. “But ’88 had something to do with it.”
In 11 seasons, he caught 489 passes for 7,822 yards and 67 touchdowns. He was a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro member. He won the Super Bowl and was named to the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team. And he was on the receiving end of one of the Most Iconic NFL Games: Hail Mary, by Roger Staubach in the 1975 Divisional Round of the Playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings.
“He was a monster,” Bryant said.
From 1984 to 1987 Nobody wore number 88. Then Irvin arrived in… ’88. Pearson was working at a television station in Dallas when the Cowboys selected Irvin with the 11th pick in the first round.
“I had my first interview with him after the draft, I caught him from the plane,” Pearson said. “After he hugged me and kissed me and everything, he said, ‘Drew, dude, they want me to wear number 88. Is that okay?’ I said, “Michael, first of all, it’s not mine. But if you wear it, make it bigger than I wore it.” And now we have something going on.”
Wearing Pearson’s number was personal to Irvin, who wore number 47 at the University of Miami. His father, Walter, was a Cowboys fan and loved Pearson. Walter died while Michael was in his senior year of high school, and he never got to see his son play in college or professionally.
“When I turned 88, I called my sister Janet and she said, ‘I can’t believe this. As much as Dad loved Drew, as much as he loved the Dallas Cowboys, and now this,” Irwin said. “Every memory that I have left I associated with watching games with my father. He called it ‘Clutch’, like, ‘Clutch always comes out. You must be the Klatch. Don’t worry, Klatch will get the play for us.
“For me, somehow God reunited me with my father every time I played the play. I could see his reaction to Drew and bring it to my catch. Those were the moments I had with him.”
As Irvine walked through the tunnel at Texas Stadium, he took a deep breath and quickly delivered a message.
“Take this, man, because I would look at all the guys in [Dallas Cowboys] Ring of Honor: “I won’t embarrass you today. I will honor the legacy you started,” Irwin said. “Then I would look at my 88 and say to Drew, ‘I won’t embarrass you today.’
Irvin caught 750 passes for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns in his 12 seasons. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. He had five consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. At the time of his retirement, he held or shared an admissions record of 20 cowboys.
“Playmaker”. Do you know what his nickname is? Lamb said. “His ability to add value to the team, play big, get into the playoffs is phenomenal.”
ANTONIO BRYANT “WAS A FIGHT” Irwin likes to see receivers but not tenacity, despite some electrifying moments in the 88. Bryant is best remembered for throwing a sweaty practice jersey in the face of then-coach Bill Parcells during the 2004 off-season. A few months later, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns.
“I had no doubt that he would not be the next guy,” Pearson said of Antonio Bryant. – That guy? Did not see.
On the other hand, Pearson was confident that Dez Bryant, selected 24th overall in 2010, deserved it. As did Irvine. But Bryant didn’t want 88th at first. He wanted to wear number 10.
“If I could somehow try to get this number, I would like to try to get this number,” Bryant said. “But I remember Jerry sitting with me and explaining what 88 means. And I’m like, ‘Hell yeah.’
Jones’ pitch was from the history of the number, started by Pearson and continued by Irvin.
“I didn’t feel pressure. No pressure,” Bryant said. “And I think that’s why 88 belongs to someone like me, because I excel at the hardest things. And that’s when you’ll see the best in me. So I think it was perfect.”
Over eight seasons, Bryant caught 531 passes for 7,459 yards and had a franchise-record 73 touchdowns. He was a three-time professional bowler and was selected All-Pro once. From 2012 to 2014, he averaged 91 receptions for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Dez’s style is completely dependent on physical condition,” Pearson said. “He was more physically developed than Michael, and that says a lot. Definitely more physically than me. If you try to follow him in the line of scrimmage, you won’t have much success. all of us.”
LIKE DEZ BRIANT Lamb initially didn’t want the number either. He wore number 2 in Oklahoma, but like Bryant before him, he wanted to wear number 10, although he said he had no good reason to do so. He then spoke to Jones.
“He offered a number and I said, ‘No.’ I really didn’t want to, not really, destroy that legacy, but I didn’t know if they were okay in the first place,” Lamb said. “Second, I didn’t want it to look like a competition. As soon as I got the nod that all three of them said, “Damn, yes, he can wear this,” I was all for it.”
Now he can’t imagine wearing another number.
“It literally became a part of me,” Lamb said.
He believes he has a legacy.
“This is my job,” he said.
When Dez Bryant wore number 88 with Lamb’s name on the back last season, “I was smiling from ear to ear.”