Tom Brady nearly never became “TB12” because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback actually planned to wear a different number as an NFL rookie 21 years ago.
He wanted the No. 10, his college number at Michigan, according to former New England Patriots punter Lee Johnson, who played with Brady in 2000 and 2001. Because the punter wore No. 10, Brady never approached him about a jersey number swap. Johnson shared the story on the Pick Six Podcast on July 5.
“I don’t recall him ever talking to me or reaching out to me,” Johnson said on the podcast via CBS Sports’ John Breech. “Had he reached out to me, I would have given him that number in a heartbeat.”
Brady, who was fourth on the depth chart for quarterback with the Patriots that season, arguably had little cause to request a number change. Johnson played for the Patriots from 1999 to 2000 and part of the 2001 season. The Patriots released the longtime veteran after Week 5 of that season.
“I was just bummed out that I was there such a short time to watch this guy do this thing,” Johnson said on Pick Six via CBS Sports. “He was magical. Don’t ever judge a book by its cover. You can’t judge a guy’s heart, mind and abilities.”
Brady gave a shout out to Johnson once in a 2018 press conference per Patriots social media.
Brady wore No. 10 at Michigan where he threw for 4,773 yards and 30 touchdowns in 29 career games. He led the Wolverines to an Orange Bowl win in 2000. He also was part of the Wolverines 1998 national championship team.
The former sixth-round draft pick wore No. 12, however, in high school at Junipero Serra in San Mateo, California. Brady didn’t make waves in the college recruiting landscape at the time per Bleacher Report’s Sanjay Kirpalani, and Brady also had a strong outlook before baseball as a draft pick for the Montreal Expos in 1995.
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Jersey Number Script Flipped in Tampa
Things worked the opposite way 20 years — and six Super Bowl wins — later when Brady came to Tampa.
“You know what number I’m thinking of? I’m thinking of taking maybe No. 7,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said about the conversation with Brady per Conor Roche of the Boston Globe. “‘Is that available?’ he goes. I said, ‘Yeah, I think it is. Why seven?’ He goes, ‘Go after that seventh Super Bowl. That’s pretty cool.'”
Brady made his first appearance in red and pewter a year ago after wearing a Patriots uniform for two decades.
His changing uniforms generated plenty of talk amid his move south, especially once the Bucs released photos of him in the team’s new uniforms. He wore the same uniform for 20 years as the Patriots made few uniform tweaks during that time period.