At Mississippi State, jersey No. 36 has taken on special meaning. Players have rotated wearing it as a tribute to the late Nick Bell, a former Bulldogs defense end who died of cancer almost six years ago.

MSU’s media guide showed the number as assigned to Jeffery Simmons, the incoming freshman who is shown assaulting a woman on video and is suspended for the opening game.

Sports anchor Rick Karle of WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham spoke to Bell’s mother, Linda, about Simmons wearing No. 36.

“On Tuesday, Linda Bell’s first two words to me when I told her that the #36 jersey worn by her son Nick at Miss State may go to Jeffery Simmons? ‘Oh, no!’,” Karle writes on his blog.

Bell’s mother does not believe anyone should be wearing the number.

“I can’t tell Coach (Dan) Mullen or Miss State who wears what jersey. I’m not as much concerned with Mr. Simmons wearing the number 36 as I am that any Bulldog player would be wearing Nick’s number,” said Linda.

She expressed hope that the experience could lead to personal growth for Simmons.

“Maybe the young man (Simmons) can learn from wearing my son’s jersey number. Nick was a young man who stood for what was right, and perhaps this young man can look to Nick for inspiration,” Linda said. “I know in my heart what the number 36 means to me as well as others. I know that Nick was kind and generous, and I hope that if this young man winds up wearing my son’s jersey number it can help him get back on the right path. I wish him the best.”

At the podium Tuesday, Mullen indicated that the number assignment could be changed, adding that it correlates to with a player’s locker assignment.