After having them wear numbers in the 50s and 60s throughout the offseason and training camp so far, the New England Patriots have finally given their rookie class some real jersey numbers — from first-round pick Mac Jones switching to 10, to seventh-round pick Tre Nixon and undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin taking over 87 and 3, respectively.
Nixon’s number in particular has led to a lot of discussion online. The number, after all, was last worn by franchise legend Rob Gronkowski between 2010 and his departure following the 2018 season. In between, Gronkowski established himself as a future Hall of Famer and helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls.
Two years after he left the organization, however, the Patriots have finally re-issued No. 87 again. While not everyone might be happy with this decision, it actually is perfect.
Why? Enter ex-Patriot and former wearer of the 87 jersey, David Givens.
There are quite a few parallels between Givens and Nixon. Two wide receivers, both entered the NFL as seventh-round draft selections by the Patriots. Givens was picked 253rd overall in 2002; Nixon 242nd overall earlier this year.
The most notable and poetic parallel between the two can be found elsewhere: both were hand-picked by since-retired Patriots football research director Ernie Adams.
Head coach Bill Belichick told the story on the third day of this year’s draft, and the Patriots’ in-house camera crew was there to capture the moment.
“Ernie’s career, especially in the draft room, is legendary,” Belichick said about Adams. “Started in 1976. All the great players of the Patriots, he was a part of — Mike Haynes, Stanley Morgan, etc. To the Giants, obviously Phil Simms in the ‘79 draft, and Taylor and Banks and all the rest of them. Of course, here, going all the way back to Brady, Gronkowski, and the famous David Givens selection.”
Why was it famous, though?
“Ernie was given a stack of books and he pulled David Givens out. Pretty good pick.”
A few moments later, Adams again had the honor of making a selection. With the Patriots on the clock in the seventh round of his final NFL Draft, the veteran executive went to the white board and picked “Tre Nixon, wide receiver, Central Florida.”
Nixon was hand-picked in the seventh-round by Adams. So was Givens.
Now, both men will be connected by their jersey numbers as well.