When Tom Brady first signed with Tampa Bay there was one pressing question that had nothing to do with his ability to play quarterback: Would he end up with a different number after wearing No. 12 on his back for 20 years with the Patriots?
After all, while Brady has donned No. 12 for his entire career and has the namesake emblazoned on his signature TB12 brand, the Bucs already had a No. 12 in Chris Godwin. A former third-round draft pick in 2017, Godwin had built a name for himself across the league after a breakout 2019 season in which he hauled in 86 receptions for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns over 14 games.
The number was more than just that to Godwin however, it was a part of his identity. Godwin had worn 12 throughout his high school, college and professional career while the number is also featured in the social media handles for both he and his fiancée, Mariah DelPercio.
“Obviously, if he doesn’t want it or isn’t making a big deal about it, I’m definitely going to keep it,” said Godwin shortly after Brady’s signing. “But we’ll see how that goes. I think just out of respect for what he’s done, what he’s accomplished, just kind of the career he’s built for himself… you’ve got to kind of lean into that respect, you know?”
Ultimately Godwin relinquished the No. 12 jersey to Brady and changed his own jersey number to 14. In a world where we occasionally see players dole out cash for the right to retain their number as they transition to a different team, or making a donation to charity on their behalf in the case of former Bucs’ receivers Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson, there was no such transaction between Brady and Godwin.
On the Peter King Podcast, Bucs general manager Jason Licht unveiled the story of how Brady wound up with No. 12.
“Hey, there’s one other thing here,” Licht said to Brady after the veteran quarterback had agreed to sign with Tampa Bay. “It’s a small thing, but maybe a big thing. We have a No. 12 on his team, and he’s pretty good, in Chris Godwin. What are you thinking about that? And he said, ‘Oh, he’s a great player. I’m not going to take his number. You know what number I’m thinking of? I’m thinking of taking No. 7, is that available?’ I said yeah I think it is, why No. 7? And he said, ‘Go after that seventh Super Bowl, that’s pretty cool.’
“Turns out Godwin offered his jersey to him and they arranged that however they did, that’s between them, but I thought that that was pretty cool. I thought, he’s got the TB12 brand and all that, that he was going to demand it. It was the last thing on his mind.”
But while there was no formal trade for the number, Godwin acknowledged that there was a promise from Brady in exchange for the number, and it was a promise that Brady intended to keep.
“I think he said that we’re going to get a Super Bowl,” Godwin said. “So I’m going to hold him to that.”