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Five rules for buying your next Badger jersey

So Travis Beckham is gone and P.J. Hill left early for the Canadian Football League. That No. 9 jersey you’ve been sporting for the last two seasons? It’s useless now. The $50 you dropped on that No. 39? Seems like a pretty silly purchase now.

That’s because you didn’t follow the rules for purchasing a college football jersey—which is OK because they don’t exist… until now.

Buying a jersey can be tough. They are expensive and they always expire (unless of course you are the guy who customizes a jersey with his own name). That’s why I have a set of five rules each for buying college and professional jerseys.

So if you’re the guy with the No. 39 jersey hung in the back of your closet already, or you’re a freshman and want a jersey you can wear for the next four years, or you’re just a tool that wears a jersey every day of the week and is tired of wearing that Anthony Davis jersey, follow these rules when investing this fall:  

For college teams (where players’ names are left off the jersey):

1) If the player is a true freshman then he must be a No. 1 recruit who is not red-shirting and if he is a red-shirt freshman then he must be a starter and lead the team in at least one key statistical category. Too many highly regarded recruits fall flat on their face.
            Pass: Ron Dayne in 1996
            Fail: Josh Oglesby in 2007

2) If the player is a sophomore or junior then he must be a starter and lead the team (among returning players if it is the offseason) in at least one key statistical category. These are the guys you want to invest in. They have already proven themselves and they are going to be around for a while.
            Pass: David Gilreath or John Clay
            Fail: Kyle Jefferson

3) If the player is a senior then he must be a Heisman/Player of the Year candidate or be a good candidate to have his jersey number retired at that player’s school. Sorry Garrett Graham fans, you missed your chance.
            Pass: Alando Tucker in 2006-07
            Fail: Kammron Taylor in 2006-07.

4) If the player plays football and wears No. 1, 7, 9, 12, 14, 18 or 80 then the previous rules do not apply to purchase the jersey, although the jersey can only be worn during seasons when the player currently wearing that number is a clear cut starter and leads the team in at least one key statistical category.
Pass: No. 12 Tyler Donovan in 2007.
            Fail: No. 4 Allan Evridge in 2008.

5) Any former All-American is eligible for a jersey purchase, but the jersey must be from a year in which that player played.
Pass: Ron Dayne and Alando Tucker
            Fail: A No. 33 or No. 42 placed on a 2009 jersey

The key here is to invest in a guy who ends up being a player Badger fans never forget. It’s not easy, because those types of players are rare. That’s why these rules are tough.

Under these rules, only two players currently qualify for a jersey purchase this season:

            1) John Clay, So. – Clay is UW’s leading returning rusher, which means he qualifies under Rule 2. There is a small chance that he has so much success in 2009 that he leaves early for the NFL, but chances are he will be around for at least two full seasons, maybe even three.

            2) David Gilreath, Jr. – Gilreath is first in receiving among UW’s returning wide receivers so he also qualifies under Rule 2.

This is a good year to wait out the first month and then re-evaluate the roster under these rules. These are the players to watch during the season:

            1) Curt Phillips, R-Fr. – If Phillips ends up taking over as UW’s starting quarterback then he will most likely lead UW in passing and qualify for a jersey purchase under Rule 1.

            2) Nick Toon, So. – Toon came on strong at the end of last season and could very well end up leading Wisconsin in receiving this season. If he does, he would qualify under Rule 2.

            3) Kraig Appleton, Fr. – We don’t know if Appleton will play this season, but if he does and he ends up being the real deal then he could qualify under Rule 1.

The 2009 verdict: The No. 32 John Clay jerseys are going to be on shelves all over State Street and that’s the jersey you should be buying this season. I’m still worried he might leave early, but look at it this way, if he does that means he had a season that won’t be forgotten at Wisconsin any time soon.

Honestly, college jerseys are easier because names are left off and they can sometimes be used years later for a new player under Rule 4. Professional teams are tougher because names are on the jerseys and free agency changes everything. Of course, sometimes jerseys last forever because you bought Michael Jordan’s Bulls jersey in the 1980s.

It’s always a gamble, but here are five rules for purchasing a professional player’s jersey:

1) The player should have at least two years left on his contract and not have a history of trade rumors following him around.
Pass: Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers. He’s got the long-term deal and the franchise is building around him.
            Fail: Milton Bradley – Chicago Cubs. Some Cubs fans fell into the Nomar Garciaparra trap again. Bradley has the long-term deal, but he’s played on 312 teams.

2) If the player is over 30 years old then he must have at least two All-Star appearances.
Pass: Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets. Still two years left on his deal and the Nuggets love him.
            Fail: Russell Branyan, Seattle Mariners. He’s become one of Seattle’s best players, but history says he won’t keep it up past this season.

3) Do not buy a rookie’s jersey unless it’s 2003 and his name is LeBron James. Half the rookies out there fail to materialize. Wait a year and then follow the rest of these rules. Do I even need to mention names like Darko Milicic, Kwame Brown, Ryan Leaf, or Rex Grossman?

4) Any regular contributor on a Championship team is eligible for a jersey purchase. This includes starters, key bench players/relief pitchers and even a very mediocre player who made a huge play in the postseason that will be remember forever (although in that case it would help to add a World Series, NBA Finals, Super Bowl, e.t.c. patch to the jersey).

5) Any Hall-of-Famer is eligible for a jersey purchase, but the jersey must be from a year in which that player played.
Pass: Carlton Fisk – Boston Red Sox or Chicago White Sox
            Fail: Michael Jordan – Washington Bullets. I have actually seen a few of these. He didn’t play for the Bullets, you morons. He regrettably played for the Wizards.

If your player does not violate the rules that apply to him, then you can fork out the money for that player’s jersey. If none of your favorite players pass all five of these rules then consider buying a personalized jersey with your name on it. However, if you go that route, be prepared to be forever known as "that guy."