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Giants rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux will be wearing No. 5 this season in New York, but it cost him a hefty sum to do so.
The edge rusher donated $50,000 to charity in order to swap numbers with Giants veteran kicker Graham Gano. The number is fitting for Thibodeaux, who wore No. 5 in college at Oregon and was drafted No. 5 overall by the Giants last month.
“When he said he was willing to give to that, I can be No. 9, and maybe in 10-15 years when he retires, and I’m still kicking, I can get No. 5 back,” Gano said, via the team’s website.
“The opportunity to give to something is exciting, and the number is obviously very special to Kayvon. While it is special to me as well, there’s a whole lot of meaning in that No. 5 to him. I just wanted to be a good teammate and also be able to support others throughout the whole process.”
Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux holds a jersey after being picked by the New York Giants with the fifth pick of the NFL football draft Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Thibodeaux, 21, donated the money to Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that provides service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, along with explosive-detection canines for law enforcement. It trains incarcerated individuals to raise the service dogs, which enter prison at 8 weeks old and “live with their incarcerated puppy-raisers for approximately 24 months.”
“As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it,” the organization writes on its website. “The dogs bring hope and pride to their raisers, and independence and security to those they serve.”
Gano, 35, comes from a military family with his dad having served in the U.S. Navy for 30 years. The No. 5 jersey is also special to the kicker because that’s how many children he and his wife Brittany have.
New York Giants kicker Graham Gano (5) reacts after making a field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
“I feel like it was where the money that Kayvon was donating would be able to make the largest impact and help the most people throughout him giving that money,” Gano said. “The whole idea behind the number five being special to myself and being special to Kayvon was being able to help five people get the five dogs and be able to make an impact in five people’s lives for the better. That was the whole goal behind that. I’m really excited about it.”
The number swap comes after Thibodeaux joked at his introductory news conference with the team that it would take a lot of “zeroes” to get the No. 5 jersey. Last season, former Giants defensive back Jabrill Peppers attempted to swap numbers with Gano, but the asking price was “too high,” Peppers said.
Oregon Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) during a college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins on October 23, 2021, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
On Tuesday, Gano said both he and Thibodeaux were aware of the upcoming number change “for about a week before we said anything.”
“Loved messing with all of y’all every step of the way,” Gano tweeted.
Gano will be wearing No. 9, which he wore during his time with the Carolina Panthers. His wife also wore that number as a softball player at Florida State.
The kicker said he hoped the swap would show Thibodeaux that NFL players have a great platform that allows them to make a difference in the community.
“Whenever you have a chance to give back, make sure you take full advantage of it and make a positive impact in other people’s lives as well,” he said.