Why The Number 88 Is Legendary For The Dallas Cowboys

michael irvin

Every time a Dallas Cowboys player suits up for a game, they’re representing not only themselves but the legacy of the franchise and every player that came before them.

But for the select few wide receivers that have worn the number 88 on their backs, it carries extra weight.

The Cowboys, along with the Atlanta Falcons and Las Vegas Raiders, are unique because they don’t retire jersey numbers. 

While it’s a great honor for a player to make such an impact on a team that the franchise decides no player will ever wear the same number, there’s something special about great wide receivers in Dallas donning 88.

Here’s a look back on the great players in Cowboys history who led the way in making that a legendary number in Dallas football lore:

Drew Pearson

Pearson went undrafted in 1973, signing a $14,500 contract with the Cowboys. In the offseason before his rookie year, Pearson practiced with Roger Staubach six days a week, running routes and catching passes.

When Staubach caught wind that Pearson was working a second job loading semi-trucks to pay his bills, the hall of fame quarterback used his pull to get his new wide receiver an additional $500 from Cowboys ownership. This financial cushion allowed Pearson to quit his other job and focus on football.

The relationship built that offseason catapulted Pearson to an impressive career, highlighted by three All-Pros, three pro bowls, a Super Bowl and an induction to the hall of fame. His 7,822 receiving yards and 48 receiving touchdown receptions rank third and fourth, respectively, all-time among Cowboys wide receivers.

Michael Irvin

The Playmaker was accustomed to being part of legendary teams, even dating back to college.

Irvin’s alma mater, the Miami Hurricanes, are widely regarded as the college team of the 1980s because they won three national championships in the decade. Irvin played a huge role in his lone championship in 1987.

The Cowboys are considered the pro team of the 1990s, with Irvin leading the way to win Super Bowls in 1992, 1993 and 1995. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native was known for his work ethic, high energy and entertaining celebrations after big plays.

The hall of famer has the most receiving yards and the second-most receiving touchdowns of any wide receiver in Cowboys history.

Dez Bryant

When in school at Oklahoma State, Bryant had some off-the-field issues that scared NFL scouts. But his talent was undeniable. In 28 games, Bryant totaled 2,425 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns. But the character issues were enough to allow Jerry Jones and the Cowboys to draft Bryant with the 24th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Early on in Dallas, Bryant got caught up in more issues away from football. While the incidents were minor, it still didn’t make for a good start to his career.

But Bryant got on the straight and narrow and his value to the Cowboys skyrocketed. He became a team leader in addition to his contributions on the field.

Bryant appeared in significantly fewer games compared to the other all-time great Cowboys receivers, yet he still caught the most touchdown passes in franchise history.

CeeDee Lamb

The 23 year old has only two NFL seasons under his belt, meaning he’s got a lot of work to do before being mentioned with the three great 88s that came before him. But based on his production, it’s not a stretch to think he’ll get there.

While deciding to wear the number, Lamb called Irvin to get his permission before making the move official. Irvin made sure Lamb knew of the responsibility he was taking to represent the number well, but Lamb embraced it.

In his first season, he had 935 receiving yards, the second-most among a talented group of rookies. He improved on those numbers last season, tallying 1,102 yards. 


Going into year three, Lamb will be Dallas’ top receiving option and his numbers should only continue to grow.