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J.J. Watt to Cardinals: Daughter of franchise legend gives ‘blessings’ for team to unretire No. 99 jersey

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Talk about throwing the entire NFL for a loop. Only what can be viewed as minutes after debunking a headline that alleged he listed three NFL teams as finalists in the derby to land him, J.J. Watt took matters into his own hands by announcing he had agreed to terms on a deal with the Arizona Cardinals — a club that was never mentioned or reported on as being in the free agency race for his services. The two-year, $31 million deal reportedly includes $23 million guaranteed and is set to put him in tandem with Chandler Jones as instantly one of the best pass rush duos in the entire league, but with the deal now agreed to, the question of what number Watt will wear takes center stage.

His beloved No. 99 isn’t available in the desert at the moment, and for good reason. It was retired by the Cardinals long ago to honor legendary halfback slash defensive weapon Marshall Goldberg, a College Football Hall of Famer who made his presence felt and then some for the then Chicago Cardinals after being drafted in 1939, mixing his football career with also serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. 

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Many have already begun trying to figure out what Watt’s new number will be, but Goldberg’s family is completely fine with bringing No. 99 down from the rafters — considering who’ll wear it.

“He has my blessings,” said Ellen Goldberg Tullos, daughter of the late Marshall Goldberg, to TMZ Sports. “And I’m sure my father would be more than delighted for him to carry it on.”


And there it is.

Should the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five-time All-Pro want to continue wearing the only number he’s known at the NFL level, the Cardinals have permission to go forward with it. It’s not yet known if the organization will make it happen, or if Watt would even consider it, but the fact the Goldberg family gives their blessing is a nod to the greatness of Watt and how they feel he’ll carry on the legacy of the number with the Cardinals. 

“Well, I know dad was really honored when they retired his number but also he’s always respected other players,” Tullos said. “And, if J.J. Watt had the No. 99 with him for a long time and it meant something to him, I think [my dad would] be delighted to let him use the number and unretire — or whatever the proper word would be.”

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As he readies to begin the next and possibly final chapter in his illustrious pro career, whatever number he wears will be the one opposing offensive coordinators scheme for going forward — as has always been the case.

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