In the LSU Tigers football program, the jersey numbers 7 and 18 are the highest honors that can be given to a player.
Defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo will wear 18, while Louisiana-born offensive lineman Will Campbell will have a seven patch sewn into his No. 66 jersey.
“The number 18 has great historical significance with our program,” Kelly said. “It’s a number that has national championship significance with Matt Mauck wearing it in 2003 and leading LSU to its first national title since 1958. He passed it on to Jacob Hester who won a national championship in 2007.
“It’s worn by a player who represents the traits and spirit associated with a successful program and that’s Mekhi.”
Wingo quickly became a leader on the LSU defense in 2022, earning third-team All-American honors while being a member of the SEC Football Leadership Council.
He was one of the three players who represented the football program at SEC Media Days in Nashville in July. He also traveled to Africa with LSU’s Study Abroad initiative.
“This means a lot to me and I want to thank BJ (Ojulari) for showing me how to properly wear this number,” Wingo told the team after practice. “I’m going to play my heart out and represent this number and all those who have worn it before me the right way.”
Ojulari, currently playing for the Arizona Cardinals, wore #18 for the Tigers last season during their 10-win season.
Campbell, a Monroe native, has started for LSU since he arrived on campus last offseason, becoming the first true freshman to start at left tackle. He was named a second-team All-SEC player while being a freshman All-American.
“The (number) 7 has an interesting history that starts with Patrick Peterson,” Kelly said when presenting Campbell his jersey. “He was an outstanding player. Prolific playmakers have worn (number) 7. I wanted to take a spin and make it about Louisiana. That’s my spin. This year we wanted to highlight the group that doesn’t get much notoriety. We went with Louisiana bred Will Campbell. I like the significance of the left tackle because he is a playmaker who must protect the quarterback every play.”
Due to jersey number rules in college football, Campbell will remain in the 66 jersey while getting a #7 patch on his jersey in 2023.
The numbers 7 and 18, in addition to the retired #20 worn by Billy Cannon, are some of the most iconic numbers in program history.