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With Permission From Marshall Goldberg's Daughter, J.J. Watt Will Wear No. 99

Cardinals' new addition received blessing to bring back retired jersey number

DE J.J. Watt (left) plans to honor former Cardinals star Marshall Goldberg when he wears their jersey No. 99 this season.
DE J.J. Watt (left) plans to honor former Cardinals star Marshall Goldberg when he wears their jersey No. 99 this season.

The No. 99 jersey was synonymous with J.J. Watt during his decade-long stint with the Texans.

When the star defensive end chose the Cardinals on Monday, a change of scenery seemed to also beget a number change, since the digits were retired by the Cardinals in tribute to Marshall Goldberg, a star on the 1947 championship team.

However, '99' will be unretired for Watt after he received permission from Goldberg's daughter, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, to wear it on the field.

Watt was prepared to select a new number after hearing about Goldberg's impressive legacy, but then read an article from TMZ that said Tullos would be fine with him adorning it. Watt gave her a call on Tuesday to confirm, and learned he had her blessing.

"We had a great conversation," Watt said. "She was super sweet. She said that she believes her father would be honored, and that he was all about the players. So she thought he would want me to wear it."

Tullos has never watched Watt play and hadn't been keeping up much with the Cardinals of late, seeing as her father last played for the team more than 70 years ago and passed away in 2006.

However, she said Watt was very appreciative on the call, and that her father would have been happy to pass along his jersey number.

"I know that (Dad) was a real team player," Tullos said. "If he had known that somebody had been using the No. 99 throughout their career and it meant something dear to them, and they wanted to continue it and bring it to the Cardinals, I think he would have been just fine with letting them do that."

Watt plans to thank Ellen in a few different ways. He is going to send a charitable donation to the Marshall Goldberg Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury Research, which was established because Goldberg dealt with the effect of concussions.

Watt also wants to spread awareness about Goldberg's life, which was an incredible one.

Goldberg played eight seasons for the Cardinals beginning in 1939, earning All-Pro honors six times as a defensive back while also playing halfback and returning kicks. He snagged a career-high and NFL-best seven interceptions in 1941 and helped the Cardinals win the 1947 NFL championship.

Goldberg's playing career was interrupted when he joined the Navy in 1943, as he spent two years in the South Pacific during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He returned to the field in 1946 and played three more years before retiring at the age of 31.

Goldberg then became a businessman in Illinois and eventually became a millionaire after taking over a machine parts company.

"I want to make sure that people know the name, and are aware of Marshall Goldberg and everything he did," Watt said.

Watt has worn No. 99 for the entirety of his NFL career and also wore it during his college days at Wisconsin. The last time he didn't wear the number was back as a freshman tight end at Central Michigan, when he wore No. 82.

Watt said wearing the number will take on a newfound significance with the Cardinals following Goldberg's accomplishments.

"I told (Tullos) I would do everything in my power to honor him and make him proud, and make his legacy proud," Watt said.

Tullos said she has family members who are very familiar with Watt's on-field exploits, but that she has some catching up to do. She plans to look for the No. 99 when the Cardinals take the field in the fall.

"I would imagine I'll be following it a little bit more closely than I have in the past," Tullos said. "My father passed away in 2006, and that was a while ago. Now J.J. is kind of bringing his number back to life."