BOSTON (CBS) — The jersey number 12 has worked out quite well for Tom Brady. He’s worn it throughout his career of unprecedented success, and it’s been on his chest and back now with two different Super Bowl-winning teams. Brady’s worked it into a logo and a brand and a business, as “TB12” has become a real life entity in the sports world.
But it all easily could have been TB10 — and Brady actually would have preferred it. He just never asked.
In an interview with CBS Sports’ John Breech, former Patriots punter Lee Johnson said that Brady could have had the jersey number 10 if the rookie quarterback had simply asked the veteran punter to swap.
“I don’t recall him ever talking to me or reaching out to me. Had he reached out to me, I would have given him that number in a heartbeat,” Johnson told Breech. “I was there for so short of time with Tom that the number was never brought up. I think he was just happy to be there.”
Brady, as has been reported once or twice over the years, was of course a sixth-round draft pick. The 199th selection in the 2000 draft, Brady didn’t exactly have the firm footing on the roster to be in a position to request jersey numbers from 16-year NFL veterans. So Brady rolled with 12 for his rookie season, when he played in exactly one game and threw three passes.
Johnson stayed with the Patriots through the start of the 2001 season, but he was released after five games. Brady had already taken over as the starter, and then he went on to win the Super Bowl, so a switch back to No. 10 wasn’t going to happen at that point.
It’s obviously just a jersey number, but considering how iconic it has become and how synonymous “12” is with Brady, it’s nevertheless a fascinating little wrinkle in sports history that Lee Johnson is the reason that “TB10” never became known to the world.