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Chargers by the (Jersey) Numbers: #57

Arnold Ale, LB

Al Bansavage, G-LB

George Belotti, G

Thomas Benson, ILB

Hubert Bobo, LB

Keith Browner, OLB

Bobby Houston, LB

James Johnson, LB

Bob Lane, LB

Mike London, LB

Rick Middleton, LB

Zeke Moreno, LB

Jack Porter, C

Bob Print, LB

Mark Rabb, LS

Floyd Rice, LB

Henry Rolling, LB

Tracy Simien, LB

Cal Snowden, DE

Dontarrious Thomas, LB

Matt Wilhelm, LB

Jerrol Williams, OLB

Cal Withrow, C

For those of you keeping score or track of the Golden Jerseys, you know that there’s something to be said for longevity and exclusivity – two traits that the GJ selection committee appreciates above all others (along with "team success").  But sometimes there’s something to be said for one indelible play.  Case in point: #57.

The Runner-Up


Linden King, LB

Here’s the quintessential candidate that the GJ committee loves!  You want longevity?  How does 8 years grab ya?  You want exclusivity?  Well, dismissing a lapse in judgment that caused him to play on the Raiders for 4 years, his only REAL team was the Chargers.  And you want team success?  Half of his Charger teams went to the playoffs.  Yes, under normal circumstances, King would have been the winner.  But 57 is far from normal.


In fact, it’s interesting to note that the two finalists for 57 sit at opposite ends of the "indelible plays in Charger history" spectrum.  Next to the Holy Roller, the Hook and Ladder play that the Dolphins pulled off against the Chargers in the ’82 playoff game probably ranks as the most gut-wrenching play in Charger history.  And who was that trailing Tony Nathan into the end zone by about a step and a half?  Linden King.  Funny how the Winner atoned for all 57s everywhere.


The Winner


Dennis Gibson, LB

Okay, let’s get it out of the way.  Gibson was an average linebacker (at best) who got lucky on one play.  It wasn’t really that great a play.  He was actually out of position.  If Foster hadn’t slipped, OR if O’Donnell had thrown the pass a little sooner, it would have been an easy touchdown.  Yeah, and Neil Armstrong messed up his speech when he stepped on the moon.  The point is it doesn’t matter!  History was made!  Gibson could have been running backwards and the ball could have conked him on the head, he still would have been a hero!  What he did for a team, a franchise, a city, and a fan base – even if he was only in the right place at the right time – was pretty incalculable.   (Who among us doesn’t remember exactly where we were or exactly what our reaction was at that moment?)


For one play to so succinctly stand out in a franchise’s history is freakish.  Can you think of another team that even comes close?  Think of all the other teams that have been to a whopping 1 Super Bowl (the epitome of a franchise’s success).  Did any of them get there by virtue of such a definitive game-saving play?


Number 57 will certainly not be retired in Gibson’s honor, so it’s likely that someone will come along with a more storied history as a Charger.  But it’s highly doubtful – at least until the team hoists the Lombardi – that a single play will have as much impact.