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NFL

Baker Mayfield paid his Panthers teammate to use the No. 6 jersey

Not so much a question of superstition as it was one of history, the Panthers new boy had his heart set on the number and was willing to pay for it.

Update:
Baker Mayfield paid his Panthers teammate to use the No. 6 jersey
JOE SARGENTAFP

For the Panthers’ new QB it would appear that it’s six or nothing. The only question that remains is now that he’s got the number he wants, will the team get the performance that it wants from its new play maker.

Baker Mayfield pays Johnny Hekker for jersey number

Since the very first day he took to the field in college back in 2013, Baker Mayfield has worn the same number (six). So much so is the quarterback tied to that number that he decided to pay one of his new teammates in Carolina for the seemingly hallowed jersey. That’s right, following his trade to the Panthers last week Mayfield made a deal with punter Johnny Hekker for his number - No. 6 - and apparently Hekker accepted.

During his first press conference as Panthers player, Mayfield was asked directly about the number he’d be wearing given that his favorite was occupied by Hekker. With a wry smile the former Browns player responded, “I guess it’s time to break the news,” Mayfield said Tuesday. “I made a deal, did my own negotiating with Johnny.” While he declined to reveal just how much he paid the punter, what’s clear is that Hekker definitely got something out of it which was valuable enough to give up his shirt. Indeed, Hekker’s reaction to the deal on social media said it all.

Johnny Hekker made a deal for #6 as well

What’s funny about the whole situation is the fact that Hekker actually made a deal of his own to get the coveted No. 6. Having worn - just like Mayfield - the number during his entire career, the former Rams punter faced a similar scenario to Mayfield when he arrived in Carolina back in March, in that the jersey was occupied by the Panthers backup QB P.J. Walker. As is the case with Mayfield, we don’t know the details, but it’s clear that somewhere between March and May a deal was struck between the pair such that Hekker finally got the number. Did Hekker break-even at least? We can only hope.

While it may seem a bit strange, such deals aren’t uncommon among NFL players. Had Hekker been a rookie, Mayfield could have likely asked him to give it up and be done with it. Yet a rookie Hekker is most definitely not. Arguably one of the NFL’s best punters over the last ten years, there was no way he was simply going to oblige because the new kid on the block asked him to. “When it comes to a four-time All-Pro, had to ask permission and was willing to make those sacrifices,” Mayfield said. “I’ve had fun getting to know him on the phone, and he seems like a great guy and a great leader. ...I’m thankful to Johnny for being reasonable and giving up his number,” Mayfield said. It remains unclear what number Hekker will take now, but given that the Panthers only had 1 and 13 available when Mayfield arrived, it’s likely to be one of them.

It’s No. 6 or nothing for Baker Mayfield

With almost a decade spent wearing the number, it’s understandable that Mayfield wanted to stick with it. Even during his four years in Cleveland it was the digit that he wore to each and every gridiron battle, but what’s interesting the reason why. “Six is special to me, not because it was ever my favorite number, [but because] it was the number I was given as a walk-on at Texas Tech,” Mayfield said. “When I transferred, the people at Oklahoma thought it was my favorite number so they just gave it to me again, so it just stuck with me. To me, it kind of symbolizes my story. ...I truly enjoy being able to represent that, it’s something that’s special to me now.”

Other NFL players have paid for jersey numbers

Though it remains unclear just how much Mayfield paid Hekker for the use of the No. 6 jersey, it stands to reason it wasn’t a small amount. Just earlier this year, New York Jets rookie Sauce Gardner paid a teammate $50,000 for the use of No. 1. There have also been a variety of other similar occasions across the league’s history. Legendary cornerback Deion Sanders once famously bought a BMW for a teammate in exchange for his number. Then there was also the deal struck between Darrelle Revis and Mark Barron to the tune of $50,000 which the former paid the latter for the use of No. 24, after he came to the Bucs from the Jets via trade.

Perhaps the most notorious of these shirt deals, however, was the one struck between Clinton Portis and Ifeanyi Ohalete back in 2005 for the use of No. 26. At the time the pair were teammates at the then Washington Redskins and Portis offered Ohalete $40,000 for the number. Ohalete accepted the deal and was paid $20,000 up front, after which the two players agreed the remainder would be paid by Christmas. Unfortunately, Ohalete got cut. Believing his obligation had ended with Ohalete’s exit, Portis refused to pay the rest of the money. This is where things get even funnier. With a written contract containing the terms of the deal, Ohalete threatened legal action. The day before they were set to go to court, however, Portis agreed to settle, finally paying his former teammate $18,000.

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