Ahead of their preseason opener against the Washington Football Team, the New England Patriots have finally unveiled the jersey numbers for their 2021 rookie class. Nine players have changed numbers as part of this process, with first-round quarterback Mac Jones going from No. 50 to No. 10 being the most prominent move.
As a look at the history books shows, however, this is not the only interesting switch. Let’s dig in.
3 — K Quinn Nordin
Most recently worn by: Stephen Gostkowski
Most prominently worn by: Stephen Gostkowski
The lone member of the Patriots’ undrafted rookie class is following some big footsteps. The No. 3 jersey was worn by the organization’s all-time leading scorer, Stephen Gostkowski between 2006 and 2019. Gostkowski is actually one of only four players to don No. 3 in a game. The others are Bruce Barnes (1973-74), Rich Camarillo (1981-87) and Matt Barr (1993-95). For Nordin to bring that number to five he will have to beat out incumbent place kicker Nick Folk.
10 — QB Mac Jones
Most recently worn by: Damiere Byrd
Most prominently worn by: Jimmy Garoppolo
Traditionally a wide receiver number in New England, No. 10 also been worn by the likes of Jabar Gaffney (2006-08), Austin Collie (2013) and Josh Gordon (2018-19). The most famous person to don it, however, might just be a former backup quarterback: between 2014 and getting traded to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2017 regular season, Jimmy Garoppolo called No. 10 his. Now, another quarterback takes it over: just like he did at Alabama, Mac Jones will wear it at the NFL level as well.
34 — S Joshuah Bledsoe
Most recently worn by: Rex Burkhead (in-season)/Tyler Gaffney (offseason)
Most prominently worn by: Chuck Shonta
While it has recently developed into a running back number due to the likes of Sammy Morris (2007-10), Shane Vereen (2011-14) and Rex Burkhead (2017-20), no player appeared in more games for the Patriots wearing No. 34 than Chuck Shonta. The defensive back played in 107 games for the club between its inaugural season in 1960 and the 1967 campaign. Shonta registered 15 interceptions along the way and was voted to a Pro Bowl.
38 — RB Rhamondre Stevenson
Most recently worn by: Dee Virgin
Most prominently worn by: Roland James
One of Rhamondre Stevenson and cornerback Dee Virgin will have to change jersey numbers between now and the first game of the regular season. While it remains to be seen who will be left standing as No. 38, the jersey itself was worn by a lot of players through the years. Among them are Super Bowl champions such as Brandon Bolden (2012-20) or Tyrone Poole (2003-05). If there is one player that should be associated with it, however, it is Roland James: a first-round draft pick by the Patriots in 1980, James spent his entire 11-year career in New England and played a combined 150 regular season and playoff games for the team.
45 — LB Cameron McGrone
Most recently worn by: Michael Jackson Sr.
Most prominently worn by: Otis Smith
The first Patriot to wear 45, two-way tight end/cornerback Thomas Stephens, found some success between 1960 and 1964. After him, the jersey has a rather disappointing history: of the 12 players to wear it in a game for New England since, only cornerback Otis Smith (1996-2002) stands out. Smith, of course, played 59 games for the organization and was a starting cornerback in Super Bowl 36.
51 — LB Ronnie Perkins
Most recently worn by: Ja’Whaun Bentley (in-season)/LaRoy Reynolds (offseason)
Most prominently worn by: Jerod Mayo
Even though 23 different Patriots have worn No. 51 in at least one game, Jerod Mayo stands out among them: the current assistant coach spent his entire eight-year playing career between 2008 and 2015 donning the jersey, and proved himself one of the better linebackers in football before injuries forced him into an early retirement. Rookie outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins matching Mayo’s contributions — two Pro Bowls, one All-Pro nomination, one Super Bowl — would be a major win for the team.
68 — OL Will Sherman
Most recently worn by: Marcus Martin
Most prominently worn by: Max Lane
Even though 68 is not the most fancy of jersey numbers given that it is traditionally worn by offensive linemen, there are some solid players who have worn it in New England. Darryl Haley and Mike Baab wore it in the 1980s, while Tom Ashworth wore a pair of Super Bowls in it in the early 2000s. However, Max Lane is the No. 68 by which all are measured: a member of the Patriots’ All-1990s team, Lane played 107 games for the club in seven seasons. He was pretty good.
70 — DT Christian Barmore
Most recently worn by: Adam Butler
Most prominently worn by: Logan Mankins
No. 70 has an interesting history in New England. Franchise greats such as Logan Mankins (2005-2013) and Leon Gray (1973-78) have worn it, as have flameouts like Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (2015) or Scott Virkus (1984). Adrian Klemm (2000-04), Bill Belichick’s first draft pick for the Patriots, has called it his. The same goes for undrafted rookie gem Adam Butler (2017-20). Now, Christian Barmore will try to add some more positive memories to its legacy.
87 — WR Tre Nixon
Most recently worn by: Rob Gronkowski
Most prominently worn by: Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots have not reissued Rob Gronkowski’s jersey number since he left the organization after the 2018 season. The future Hall of Famer is obviously the most prominent player to don No. 87, but he is far from the only one. It has a pretty proud history, in fact: Lin Dawson (1981-90), Ben Coates (1991-99) and David Givens (2002-05) all wore it before Gronkowski took it after arriving in 2010. Now, it is seventh-round rookie Tre Nixon’s to wear.