Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera
Rashaan Salaam was one of the most memorable players in Colorado football history, and now he will forever be honored as one of the greatest to play in Boulder.
On Friday, CU announced that the No. 19 jersey worn by the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner during his sensational career will be retired after this season. The late Salaam, who took his own life on Dec. 5 at the age of 42, will be just the fourth player in CU history to have his number retired.
The official retirement ceremony will be held on Oct. 28, during CU’s homecoming game against California. Salaam will join Byron White (No. 24, 1936-37), Joe Romig (No. 67, 1959-61) and Bobby Anderson (No. 11, 1967-69) as the only CU players to have their number retired.
“We just thought it was the right time for us to do it,” CU athletic director Rick George said. “We will have hopefully a sold out crowd that will be there that could helps us honor his legacy.”
Salaam is the only player in CU history to win the Heisman, presented annually to the top player in college football. He rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns in 1994, becoming just the fourth player in NCAA Division I history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.
Salaam hit the 2,000-yard mark during a time when college teams played just 11 games in the regular season and didn’t count bowl statistics. Teams now often play 12- and 13- or 14-game schedules, while also adding bowl game statistics.
“When Rashaan won the Heisman Trophy, that meant a lot to the university,” George said. “He’s our first and only Heisman Trophy winner and we thought it was fitting to recognize his legacy and acknowledge his legacy.”
The announcement was made during CU’s annual Boulder Chamber of Commerce kickoff luncheon. Larry Zimmer, the former voice of the Buffs for KOA radio, made the announcement to those in attendance at the luncheon.
Zimmer, who called all 27 of Salaam’s games at CU, called it a “real honor” to be asked to make the announcement.
Current CU senior running back Michael Adkins II wears No. 19 and will continue to do so throughout this season. Adkins, who, like Salaam is from San Diego, will be the last CU player to wear No. 19.
“It was an honor to get that number as a freshman with the history,” Adkins said. “It was really cool, especially us being from the same city, San Diego, as a running back, it was really, really special.
“I want to represent (the No. 19) well and carry that and make him proud on that last go-round.”
Prior to coming to CU, Salaam played 8-man football at San Diego’s La Jolla Country Day School.
Salaam played as a true freshman and totaled 1,002 yards in his first two years with the Buffs, sharing carries with others.
In 1994, Salaam led the country in rushing, scoring (144 points) and all-purpose yards (2,349). He had nine consecutive 100-yard games, and even had a key block that gave quarterback Kordell Stewart extra time to throw the 64-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Michael Westbrook on the final play of a 27-26 win at Michigan.
In addition to the Heisman, Salaam won the Doak Walker Award and was named the Walter Camp National Player of the Year.
Salaam ranks third in CU history with 3,057 career rushing yards. He was inducted into CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 and has had an honorary locker at the Champions Center since it opened in 2015.
Salaam skipped his senior season at CU to enter the NFL draft, where he was selected in the first round (No. 21 overall) by the Chicago Bears. In four NFL seasons, he rushed for 1,684 yards, with 1,074 of those coming in his rookie year.
Salaam’s NFL career didn’t go as planned, however. He became addicted to marijuana and didn’t have the work ethic he felt he needed to succeed. That contributed to fighting depression after football.
Despite battling inner demons, Salaam was known for his smile, his humble nature and his willingness to help others. He partnered with the SPIN Foundation (Supporting People in Need) to help mentor kids.
George said all that made Salaam great, on and off the field, is what will be permanently honored with the retiring of Salaam’s jersey.
“His accomplishments that he had on the field, everybody knows about,” George said. “What a great inspiration for a lot of our upcoming running backs and teammates. But, what he did, his smile and his spirit that he brought to the way he played and the way he lived his life, was something that will be on everybody’s mind as we remember his legacy.”
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.