Gil LeBreton

Emmitt Smith didn’t want Elliott to wear No. 22

Well, that could have been awkward.

First-round draft choice Ezekiel Elliott will wear jersey No. 21 for the Dallas Cowboys, it appears, averting an uncomfortable replication and upsetting the franchise’s space-time continuum.

Running back Elliott, after all, could have been given No. 22, the same number worn by Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith.

Or maybe not, as Emmitt told FM 105.3 The Fan.

“Let him pick his own number,” Smith told the Shan and RJ Show. “Why does he have to wear some other guy’s number that’s X, Y and Z?”

Emmitt, of course, did 18,355 yards of “Z” during his 15-year pro career, still the NFL rushing record.

He continued:

“That’s like going to Chicago and saying, ‘Give me No. 34.’ That just doesn’t work. That’s like going to Cleveland and saying, ‘Give me Jim Brown’s number.’

“You want your own identity. You want to be who you are.”

Exactly. Jersey No. 22 was a hallowed and historic number for the Cowboys – when it was worn from 1965 to 1974 by Hall of Fame wide receiver Bob Hayes. Emmitt must have forgotten that.

The Cowboys are one of three pre-’90s NFL franchises that do not retire jersey numbers.

Thus, the great Tony Dorsett’s No. 33 was later worn by ... Nate Jones. Hall of Famer Randy White’s No. 54 has just been given away for the 12th time and will be worn by rookie Jaylon Smith.

The idea of giving Elliott No. 22 briefly made for good radio and water cooler talk. Was Emmitt really miffed at the possibility?

Certainly, to an extent. Smith, after all, is the guy who dissed his alma mater, Florida, by not even mentioning his years in Gainesville during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. As the story goes, Smith and head coach Steve Spurrier had a chilly encounter before Emmitt declared himself for the NFL Draft.

Crisis averted here, however. Elliott will be No. 21, not 22, on the Cowboys’ depth chart.

He’s got a lot of Zs to make up.