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“I tried to bribe him a couple times, but he wouldn’t give it up,” says Bullock, who finally took over No. 44 this season. “Multiple times. Every year, I’d bring it up to him.”

Bullock needed someone to move on, but Nolan Carroll still has a former teammate checking in on him. The cornerback, who had 82 in his wide receiver days, took over No. 14 when he moved over to defense.

It just so happened the guy who once threw passes to him, Sam Hollenbach, has an eye on how he’s doing.

“Every time I see him, it’s like ‘Are you taking care of my number?’” Carroll says. “I tell him I am. ‘As long as you do something good with it.’ I say ‘I got you.’”

Friedgen occasionally is forced into deep discussions over digits. He recalls how quarterback Josh Portis wanted a number that was already taken when he transferred from Florida before settling for the No. 12 he still wears today.

“[I said] ‘If I take somebody’s jersey away and give it to you, what do you think they’re going to think of you?’” Friedgen said. “You don’t want to come in here and upset people right away. You want to come in and blend in and come be a leader. If you’re here long enough, the number will probably come available and it did. It couldn’t have been that important, right?”

In at least that case, it ultimately was not more than just a number.