Stories and story lines have a strange way of popping up. The story of whether or not Keffer McGee’s number staying retired is one such story.
On Saturday, former Mississippi State Head Coach Jackie Sherrill posted something that I was unaware of. When Keffer McGee passed away before the start of the 1997 football season, his number was retired. Stephen Agostonelli who runs Six Pack Speak tweeted out a picture of a statement Sherril made on his Facebook page.
Retiring numbers, especially on a football team, is a tricky proposition. There are 85 scholarship players, and due to the sheer size of the team, you need as many numbers 0-99 as you can get. But Mississippi State did retire Keffer McGee’s number, and it appears Matilda McGee wants it to stay that way.
I was unaware of anyone on the team currently wearing number 21, but a quick glance at the roster shows that Nick Gibson wore 21 in 2016. Brett Hudson of the Commercial Dispatch confirmed that Nick Gibson would wear the number again in 2017.
Brett also mentioned on Twitter that if the school were looking to start bestowing the number on a player each season as a way to honor McGee, Gibson would be a good player to start with. If the school were to do that, and Keffer McGee’s mother were on board with such a plan, I would be completely on board with such a move.
But as of now, it does not appear that Keffer McGee’s mother is on board with such a plan. And to give his number out without her blessing is a wrong that needs to be corrected.
The messy part of this is it puts Nick Gibson in a difficult spot. Players are very particular about the numbers they wear. They often have a significant meaning to them. I’m sure Nick Gibson has a particular reason he wants to wear number 21. It’s not his fault he was given a number that was retired. It’s up to the athletic staff to make sure things like this don’t happen.
I’m not sure how this will be be resolved. But I hope the McGee family who lost so much when Keffer was taken from the world at such a young age is given a resolution they are comfortable with.