by Chuck Pool (email@example.com) -
Two mainstays of the current Rice football team will take to the field for the annual Blue-Gray spring game in new numbers as they honor a pair of standout teammates from the past as part of the Rice Owls Honor Jersey program.
Running back Samuel Stewart will switch to 45 this year to honor 1991 Doak Walker Award winner Trevor Cobb, while defensive tackle Zach Abercrumbia who wears 96 will honor Cobb's teammate and two-time All --SWC noseguard Matt Sign.
Cobb became the first Owl to win one of college football's major individual awards when he received the 1991 Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back. Cobb was a consensus All-American in 1991 and went on to be named the 1992 Southwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He completed his career ranked second on the SWC rushing list with 4,948 yards, which ranked eighth on the NCAA career list at that time and now ranks 22nd in NCAA history.
He became the first Owl to rush for over 1,000 yards in three seasons and holds the top three season totals in school history, capped by his 1,692 yards in 1991 during his run to the Doak Walker Award. In addition to his yardage total, Cobb holds Rice season and career marks for rushing attempts (306/1,091), and all-purpose yards (6,512) in addition to the career mark for rushing touchdowns (38).
Despite his 5-10, 220 pound frame, Sign was a dominant defensive force during his career at Rice. He led Rice linemen in tackles in each of his four seasons and he ranks fifth on the Rice career chart with 36 tackles for loss and sixth with 14 sacks. He won the Lipscomb Award in 1989 as the Outstanding Freshman and shared the first "Bloody Joe" Davis Award in 1991.
After starting his professional career with Florida Citrus Sports (FCS) which produced the Champs Sports Bowl and the Gridiron Classic College All-Star Game, Sign was named the Chief Operating Officer of the National Football Foundation in 2005.
The Honor Jersey program began in 2012, when Rice head coach David Bailiff first honored past notable Rice football players by having current member of the team who play the same position change numbers. King Hill and O.J. Brigance were honored the first year. In 2013, the Owls honored the first three African-American players at Rice (Rodrigo Barnes, Stahle Vincent and Mike Tyler) along with Bucky Allshouse, who was their recruiting host. In 2014, Larry Izzo, N.D. Kalu and Richard Chapman were honored while in 2015; Jeff Rose and Dr. Leland Winston saw players change to their numbers. Last year, Ray Alborn, Donald Bowers and David Houser were honored.
Kickoff for the annual game to wrap up spring football drills is set for 8:00 p.m. Friday at Rice Stadium.