Tom Brady, as you may have heard, is officially a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. You probably can’t wait to get your hands on some fresh TB12 merch and I’m sure Brady himself is anxious to don his new uniform. Twelve has become almost as synonymous with Brady as the number 23 was to Michael Jordan (though he did sport 45 for a stretch in 1995). All the photo-shopped images of Brady with the Bucs have shown him wearing 12, though that number has already been spoken for.
We might not be having this conversation if the Bucs’ current 12 was worn by a fringe roster type or some regular Joe on the practice squad, but instead it belongs to one of Tampa’s most established players—Pro Bowl receiver Chris Godwin. And while the proper etiquette may call for Godwin to surrender his number to the more senior Brady—he is the GOAT, after all—the fourth-year wideout seemed conflicted when the subject arose in a recent chat with Buccaneers.com reporter Casey Phillips.
“My phone is blowing up over the last 24 hours on Twitter, Instagram, like phone calls, text messages. People just asking me the same question. I think it will be very interesting whatever happens,” said Godwin, who also wore 12 at Penn State. “Obviously, if [Brady] doesn’t want it or isn’t making a big deal about it, I’m definitely going to keep it. But we’ll see how that goes.”
It would be unsettling, bordering on sacrilegious to see Brady sport anything other than his iconic 12 in Tampa, but the 20-year vet may not be as attached to his digits as you might think. In fact, he almost gave his number up to Mohamed Sanu (who wore 12 at previous NFL stops in Cincinnati and Atlanta) last year, though the latter chose to maintain the status quo, settling for 14 instead.
If the incumbent Godwin keeps his number, the future Hall of Famer could potentially pivot to 10, which he wore during his time as a Michigan Wolverine in the late ‘90s. Of course, that number is also occupied at the moment—it was issued to Scotty Miller when he joined the Bucs as a sixth-round rookie last year.
Luckily, Brady still has plenty of options—1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 18 and 19 are all still available. Eleven would be an interesting choice—perhaps he’d consider an homage to his former Patriots teammate and close friend Julian Edelman—while Brady could also pay tribute to his rival-turned-pal Peyton Manning by slapping on a crisp No. 18.
Whatever way Brady leans (12 would certainly be the preferred choice for marketing purposes), you can bet his new uniform will be flying off shelves in Tampa and everywhere else. The Buccaneers, who are slated to unveil new threads next month, are already doing gangbusters in online sales. According to the retailer Fanatics, Tampa Bay moved more merchandise Friday than any other team across the four major sports leagues. In fact, the Bucs sold more gear Friday—the day Brady’s two-year, $50-million contract became official—than they had the previous two weeks combined. Brady jerseys in particular have sold like hotcakes, skyrocketing 900 percent since Friday’s landmark announcement.
Some, including Donovan McNabb, are skeptical of how the 42-year-old will fare outside New England, and while that doubt is warranted coming off one of his worst statistical seasons, Brady’s celebrity has already made the Bucs the most anticipated team in football.