On Saturday night in Fort Worth, they gathered not because it was a de facto reunion of any kind but rather because their good friend was getting married.There they were — Andy Dalton, Jake Kirkpatrick, Tejay Johnson, Marcus Cannon and a handful of others from TCU’s Rose Bowl-winning team — together to celebrate the marriage of former teammate Curtis Clay to Brittany Richards. (Major shout-out to one of the finest duos TCU ever produced.)Their gathering was a reminder of not only how special that group was, how eternal their team will remain, but just how quickly time moves and life changes.It’s only been 2 1/2 years, but some days it feels like 20 since they were on the field in Pasadena celebrating the greatest moment in the program’s modern era, which eventually helped make the Big 12 invite possible.They are all still young, but they are no longer kids. They’re adults with wives, families, careers and out of the playpen that is college.Saturday night was another reminder of just how special they all were, not only to each other, but to this community.Saturday night was also a reminder that TCU needs to do right by Mr. Dalton and retire his No. 14.A TCU spokesman said it has no plans to do anything with No. 14, as it is worn by wide receiver David Porter. No disrespect to Mr. Porter, but TCU should make him change his number.Dalton’s No. 14 deserves to be placed in the same strata as TCU’s other “retired” numbers — LaDainian Tomlinson’s No. 5, Sammy Baugh’s No. 45 and Davey O’Brien’s No. 8.Dalton is not as talented as his successor, Casey Pachall, but for four years no one better represented his team, his community, his school — while winning — any better than Andy Dalton. According to TCU historian Dan Jenkins, Dalton was nowhere near as good as the late Sam Baugh, but who is?Dalton’s No. 14 jersey is still prevalent on the campus bookstore racks, for which he does not receive a penny (that’s another rant). This has never been fair to Pachall, but Dalton’s legacy is going to shadow this program’s starting quarterback for years, which it should. He should be the standard, not in terms of arm strength or accuracy, but in terms of being a responsible, accountable, reliable and decent young man.Few jocks I’ve ever been around “got it” from the time he was a freshman the way this guy did. He may be boring and will never generate a single headline for his mouth, but he has always been a pro, even when he was a collegian (please insert obligatory NCAA student-athlete jokes).This does not mean all those who follow Dalton must be what one TCU administrator called “a Boy Scout.” People have to be themselves; trying to mimic someone else is begging for trouble.It simply means those who follow Dalton as the quarterback should try to emulate his effort, keen self-awareness and sense of responsibility. All this guy ever did since he arrived at TCU was improve and “be there.”In terms of on-the-field production, what both he and his teams did at least equaled anything that Baugh, O’Brien or Tomlinson achieved. Each of those three men’s accomplishments stand up not only to the “local” test but nationwide.Baugh, O’Brien and LT are all one-name men. It does not matter if you are in Fort Worth, New York, Miami or LA — you don’t need to hear their first and last names together to immediately know who those men were, and what they did for their school. Dalton is in the same situation.Is it fair to the many other players — Bart Johnson, Jeremy Kerley, Clay, Tejay, Wayne Daniels or the rest — that Dalton is the one who receives this type of love? No, but it’s a quarterback’s game. It was when Baugh played and it is now.Dalton did as much, but maybe not more, as Tomlinson in positive PR for TCU. There has been no more important modern-era team in the history of this program than the Rose Bowl bunch, and Dalton is a deserving face to represent them.Saturday’s informal reunion for a teammate’s wedding was a reminder of how special that entire time and team were. It also serves as the perfect opportunity to remind TCU to put No. 14 up forever.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof