Incoming freshman Justin Hilliard will wear No. 47 at Ohio State. Yes, that No. 47, the one previously retired in honor of Chic Harley, the first three-time All-American in school history and considered to be the running back who put OSU football on the map in the seasons during and after World War I.

Incoming freshman Justin Hilliard will wear No. 47 at Ohio State. Yes, that No. 47, the one previously retired in honor of Chic Harley, the first three-time All-American in school history and considered to be the running back who put OSU football on the map in the seasons during and after World War I.

But Hilliard, a linebacker who wore the number while starring at Cincinnati (Xavier) before signing with the Buckeyes, didn't just make a grab for it. The protocol was followed as set up by OSU officials, who a couple of years ago opted to start honoring players and not retiring numbers after seven numbers had been retired.

"When I signed, I got a chance to talk to some of the family members, and see the history of the number," Hilliard said. "People think of A.J. Hawk; they don't know that it goes all the way back to one of the first consistent All-Americans at Ohio State.

"After doing a lot of research and I was very honored to get that number. It's really cool."

Hawk still was wearing the No. 47 when Harley – who wore several numbers during his career - was honored in 2004. It had been out of use since 2005, in mothballs along with the No. 45 of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, the numbers of Heisman winners Vic Janowicz (31), Howard "Hopalong" Cassady (40), Les Horvath (22) and Eddie George (27), and the No. 99 of Bill Willis.

Last year, 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith was the first to be honored in the new way, of having his name and number put up on the rim of fame at Ohio Stadium, but keeping the number in circulation. Sophomore defensive end Jalyn Holmes and incoming freshman quarterback Joey Burrow will wear No. 10 this year.

As for putting a number back in circulation, team spokesman Jerry Emig said it starts with a request by coach Urban Meyer to athletic director Gene Smith. The coach then must discuss it either with the honored player or, in this case, an immediate family member. The heads of the Ohio State University Alumni Association and Varsity "O" are then informed before the athletic director ultimately approves the request.

"This protocol was followed for No. 47," Emig said.

tmay@dispatch.com

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