When rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson takes the field for the Detroit Lions, he’ll be wearing No. 88 — the same number worn by late Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders.
Sanders’ family released a statement (per Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press) stating their support of Hockenson wearing No. 88.
While Sanders’ No. 88 was never officially retired by the Lions, it hasn’t been common for Detroit players to wear it since his retirement.
As Birkett noted, Hockenson is only the fourth Lion to wear No. 88 since Sanders retired following the 1977 season. He’ll be the first to wear it since Sanders was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
Sanders played his entire 10-year career for Detroit. In an era where tight ends were used more as blockers than receivers, he caught 336 passes for 4,817 yards with 31 touchdowns.
The Lions used the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Hockenson. With Iowa in 2018, he caught 46 passes for 717 yards and six touchdowns, winning both the John Mackey and Ozzie Newsome awards.