Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Panthers’ Baker Mayfield paid off punter Johnny Hekker to get the number he wanted in Carolina

Baker Mayfield has worn the same number (six) since his first day of college football back in 2013, and he wanted to keep that number so badly that he was willing to pay for it after being traded to the Panthers last week

During his first press conference as a member of the Panthers, Mayfield was asked what number he was going to wear in Carolina since his favorite number was taken by punter Johnny Hekker

“I guess it’s time to break the news,” Mayfield said Tuesday. “I made a deal, did my own negotiating with Johnny.”

Mayfield didn’t reveal how much he paid to get No. 6 from Hekker, but it’s pretty clear the two worked out some sort of deal and that the deal definitely ended with Hekker’s bank account coming out as the big winner. 

Hekker was one of the first people to react on Twitter after Mayfield started talking about the deal. 

The crazy thing about this deal is that Hekker had just made his OWN deal to get No. 6. The former Rams punter had been wearing the number for his entire carer, but when he signed with Carolina in March, it wasn’t available because it was taken by Panthers backup quarterback P.J. Walker

At some point between March and May, the two guys worked out some sort of deal that ended with Hekker getting No. 6. There must have been some serious haggling because the Panthers didn’t officially announce Hekker’s number until May 16, which was nearly a full two months after he originally signed. If Hekker had to pay Walker a huge amount for the number, it’s probably fair to assume that he made that money back plus more in his deal with Mayfield. 

If a rookie had been wearing the number, Mayfield probably would have just asked him to give it up, but he couldn’t do that with Hekker, who’s been one of the NFL‘s best punters over the past decade. 

“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.”

At the time of the trade, the only two numbers the Panthers had available for a quarterback to wear were one and 13, and clearly, Mayfield wanted nothing to do with those. 

“I’m thankful to Johnny for being reasonable and giving up his number,” Mayfield said.

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Although it’s unclear what number Hekker will wear, it’s likely going to be one or 13 unless he can work out a deal for another number. 

As for Mayfield, he’s been wearing six for nearly a decade, which is why he wanted to stick with it. It’s also the number he wore during his four seasons in Cleveland. 

“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.” 

Although we don’t know how much Mayfield paid, the going rate to get the number you want in the NFL can be high. This year alone, we saw Jets rookie Sauce Gardner pay a teammate $50,000 so that he could wear No. 1. Over the course of NFL history, there have been some even crazier deals — like the time Deion Sanders bought a teammate a BMW — and you can read about those crazy deals by clicking here

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