In 2002, after the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl, a fan approached team owner Robert Kraft with an urgent request: the mascot would need to change its number. Since his introduction in 1993, Pat Patriot donned the No. 0 jersey but with it first championship having been earned by the organization the previous year, it was high time for an update. On 2002 opening day, therefore, the mascot took the field wearing No. 1 — a number that stuck ever since.
18 years later, however, it seems as if Pat Patriot will likely have to look for a new one: quarterback Cam Newton, whose signing was officially announced on Wednesday, has been issued the No. 1 jersey by the club.
Newton started wearing No. 1 after he joined the NFL as the first overall draft pick by the Carolina Panthers back in 2011. He originally wanted to take the number he sported at Auburn University, No. 2, but then-Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen refused to give it up. Newton therefore decided to go with the jersey number he wore for the next nine seasons — and one he will continue to don even now in New England.
In fact, the 31-year-old becomes just the fourth Patriots player to pick the jersey, thus following the footsteps of these three gentlemen:
K John Smith: Smith arrived in New England in 1974 and went on to appear in 116 regular season games and two playoff contests as the team’s place kicker before his retirement after the 1983 season. Even though he was voted to one Pro Bowl (1980) and was named to the Patriots’ Team of the 1970s, his most memorable moment just have come in 1982: Smith kicked the only three points in the famous “Snowplow Game” against the Miami Dolphins.
K Tony Franklin: During the offseason that saw Smith leave New England, the team traded a sixth-round draft choice to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Tony Franklin as his eventual replacement. Known for kicking bare-footed even in snowy conditions, he played 62 regular season contest and five playoff games for the Patriots and like his predecessor was voted to one Pro Bowl (1983) and one Team of the Decade (1980s) before getting cut in 1988.
K Eric Schubert: Franklin’s final year in New England was the strike-shortened 1987 season. He did play in 14 of a possible 15 games, but had to be replaced for the team’s Week 4 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Enter Eric Schubert, whose 14th and final game in the NFL came as a member of the Patriots. He made one of his two field goal attempts and was successful on his lone extra point try.
Now, Newton will join the trio as the only other Patriots player and first non-kicker to wear No. 1. As for the last person to don it — Pat Patriot — he might be asked to move back to the number he called his own before the 2002 season: don’t be surprised if New England’s mascot goes back to wearing No. 0 like he did between 1993 and 2001. Of course, there is also a chance that he moves to a number once again reflective of the team’s Super Bowl titles and chooses the currently vacant No. 6.