But it cost him a little something.
Hekker said Mayfield sent along an initial message through “The Godfather” (Panthers equipment manager Don Toner), setting the stage for the switch.
Hekker had worn 6 throughout his 10-year career with the Rams, since his college number (7) was retired in honor of Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield. Linebacker Shaq Thompson has that one occupied here. But with a little encouragement from Mayfield, he was willing to adjust.
“Gas prices are crazy these days, so you’ve got to do what you can do to keep the tank full,” Hekker joked. “But in all reality, it’s kind of a fresh start for both of us here in Carolina. You want a quarterback who can feel good about what they’re playing in. I’m excited to get a fresh start in a new number for the first time in my career.
“It’ll be a great deal for Baker to have a little bit of familiarity, and feel himself in number 6.”
For Mayfield, the number carries some symbolism since it’s the one they handed him when he was proving himself in college.
“You know, 6 is special to me, not because it was ever my favorite number,” he said. “It was the number I was given as a walk-on at Texas Tech, and when I transferred, the people at Oklahoma thought it was my favorite number, so they just gave it to me again. And so it’s just stuck with me. To me, it kind of symbolizes my story, my history with that, and I truly enjoy being able to represent that, and it’s something special to me now. But at first, it was not, so I’m thankful for Johnny being reasonable and giving up his number, for such a veteran of that many years.”
When Hekker arrived in free agency, the All-Decade punter from the 2010s had talked quarterback PJ Walker out of the number originally, and Walker’s currently wearing 11.
Hekker’s change could trigger a domino effect among other players, so details of those digits are still pending, though Mayfield’s is already available for fans to purchase.