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More than a number

Fire rookie Jeremiah Gutjahr wears 33 to pay tribute to former teammate Cody Jewett, and also Jewett’s late father.

Jeremiah Gutjahr controls the ball along the sideline as Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar defends during Wednesday’s game.
Chicago Fire Soccer Club

Fire defender/midfielder Jeremiah Gutjahr remembers what Cody Jewett meant to him in college. When they were teammates and roommates at Indiana University, Jewett, a goalkeeper for the Hoosiers, was always available to Gutjahr. Even if he was tired or coming back from a class, Jewett would go out for a bite to eat or help with whatever Gutjahr needed.

So when it was time for the 21-year-old rookie Gutjahr to pick a number for the 2019 season with the Fire, the first choice was the 33 shirt Jewett wore at Indiana. That number holds even more meaning for Jewett, as 33 was his father Scott Jewett’s favorite before the elder Jewett died at age 55 of colon cancer on January 26, 2018.

“(It was because of) the relationship with Cody, but then also knowing what he was to me as a friend and a teammate, and me wanting to be that great of a teammate to the guys on our team,” Gutjahr said. “I think about how important my dad (IU English professor Paul Gutjahr) is and his dad was to him, and mentors in general, how important the role is they play in our lives.”

Knowing why his friend and former teammate wears 33 means something to Jewett.

He said his dream was to wear 33 in a major stadium and “be able to point to the sky” and think of his dad when he played. When his father was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2017, Jewett left the Hoosiers and moved back home to the Seattle area.

Though his career didn’t go the way for him to don 33 in top-flight venues against prominent professional competition, Jewett “couldn’t be happier” that Gutjahr is doing that at SeatGeek Stadium, playing alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty in MLS.

“Honestly, it’s incredible to me,” Jewett said. “I didn’t think that somebody would be wearing the number I had and would wear it with the meaning of respect to my family and myself.”

That meaning isn’t dimming for Gutjahr, either.

Though he’s done it for over half a season in the top level of American soccer, every time Gutjahr pulls on the 33 shirt, it makes him think. It prompts him to be the teammate Jewett was, and to think of the people around him in the dressing room and on the field.

“It humbles me. It reminds me that I’m not just playing for me,” Gutjahr said. “I’m playing for the guys around me.

“One of my favorite quotes is from Booker T. Washington. He said that the best way to lift yourself up is to lift up someone else,” Gutjahr added. “I think about that, and just little ways you can do that. I know Cody was able to be available and be there for me when I needed him to be, and I want to be that guy for the guys in our locker room.”

Jewett would expect nothing less from Gutjahr.

“Expect greatness out of the kid,” Jewett said.