Welcome to The Vault, the weekly blog post that takes a look back at some of the best (and worst) jerseys throughout sports history. Each week, a classic set of threads each from the sports of football, basketball, hockey, baseball, and soccer will be revisited. Because of the NFL Draft coming up on Thursday, this week’s edition of the Vault takes a look back at some of the greatest rookie jerseys in NFL history.
All submissions are welcome by messaging @tftb_smalls on IG.
Chicago Bears LB Brian Urlacher
The first selection this week belonged to one of the most beloved linebackers of all time, Brian Urlacher. The New Mexico product was taken by the Chicago Bears with the ninth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. In his rookie year, Urlacher made an immediate impact and won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award after recording 125 combined tackles and 16 tackles for loss. He also earned a Pro Bowl selection that year. In 2002, Urlacher led the league in solo tackles as he was cementing his place as one of the best defensive players in the league. After being a Bear for life and retiring in Chicago, Urlacher is still a fan favorite to this day in the Windy City. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018 and is still considered one of the best to ever do it. The #54 Bears jersey is still an extremely popular pick in Chicago and can be seen everywhere on Bears gamedays.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley
So, yes, the second entry in this week’s Vault is completely biased, but it’s hard to argue with this guy’s rookie performance. Saquon Barkley was selected by the New York Giants with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after receiving an unbelievable amount of hype out of college. With that being said, Barkley absolutely backed it up with a season where he went for 1,307 rushing yards, 721 receiving yards, and 15 total TD’s. He was one of the only good things about a Giants team (outside of OBJ) that went 5-11 last season and earned the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Saquon was electric on the field and brought a new dynamic to the running back position. Being a Penn State student, I saw the absurdity that was Saquon Barkley in person for three years, so it was no surprise to me that he took the NFL by storm. Immediately after being drafted, Barkley’s blue Giants jersey became the most purchased rookie jersey in NFL history. It’s so popular that Tiger Woods’ caddie was seen wearing one the Sunday Tiger won the Masters.
Los Angeles Rams RB Eric Dickerson
Our third entry was worn by the man who many consider the best rookie in NFL history, running back Eric Dickerson. Dickerson was drafted by the LA Rams out of SMU in the 1983 NFL Draft. He hit the ground running that year by recording a league-high 1,808 rushing yards and 18 rushing TD’s. These numbers helped him easily snag the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and land a place on the All-Rookie team. Dickerson went on to be a 6-time Pro Bowler and was an inductee in the 1999 Hall of Fame class. The LA Rams have recently brought back the vintage royal blue and yellow color scheme, which is much better than the one the team used once they moved the franchise to St. Louis. Because of the vintage colors and the fact that Dickerson was one of the most successful rookies of all time, it was a lock for this week’s Vault. Plus, how could you not LOVE those old school Rec Specs?
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
The fourth selection this week is kind of a homer pick if I’m being honest. Ben Roethlisberger was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 11th overall pick in the 2004 Draft. The former Miami (OH) QB took over for injured starter Tommy Maddox in Week 2 and never looked back. The team finished the season 15-1 with the rookie QB at the helm, which was a HUGE improvement from their 6-10 record the year before. Big Ben threw for 2621 yards and 17 TD’s that year, and the Steelers made it to the AFC championship game (where they lost to the Patriots). Roethlisberger’s emergence set the tone for the team’s Super Bowl XL win the next season, as well as for the rest of his career. The Steelers uniform is iconic in the NFL world, plain and simple. It’s one of the most traditional jerseys out there, and Big Ben’s rookie jersey will always be associated with the organization’s success since 2004.
Minnesota Vikings WR Randy Moss
Our final selection belongs to one of the best wide receivers of all time, Randy Moss. Moss was selected out of Marshall University by the Vikings in the 1998 Draft with the 21st overall pick. He made an immediate impact and recorded 1313 receiving yards and 17 TD’s. He had a major role in the Vikings having the best NFL offense ever up to that point (the Vikings scored 556 points in 1998). The team ended up going 15-1 before losing to the Falcons in the NFC Championship. Despite this disappointment, Moss had earned a Pro Bowl selection and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018. Moss’s purple and gold rookie Vikings jersey became an instant classic and is still recognized today.
So what did I miss? Also, if you have any jerseys that you’d like to see on the Vault, please feel free to message @tftb_smalls on Instagram. Input is always welcome.