When cornerback and former first-round draft choice Stephon Gilmore broke in with Buffalo, he wore number 27 … but it wasn’t long before he changed to number 24. And when he signed with New England earlier this year, it wasn’t long before cornerback Cyrus Jones – who wore 24 last season – offered the number to Gilmore.
Reason: It’s the one he prefers.
Patriots’ fans know the significance of number 24. It was worn by Hall-of-Fame candidate Ty Law, a star cornerback for New England for a decade. But does Gilmore?
We asked on this week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
“I did know that,” he said. “I mean, I watched him growing up a lot. I always wanted the number. Once I got to the league that’s what number I wanted. A lot players I looked up to wore that number. A lot of great ones, and I just wanted to wear that for the players that I looked up to.
“But I did know he (Law) wore that number in New England. He was a great player. But I’m my own self, and I try to play the game my own way and be productive in that way.”
Gilmore has been productive, one reason New England broke the bank for him – signing him to a five-year, $65-million contract this offseason. But his love for the number 24 transcends Ty Law and goes to other cornerbacks who were equally – or, sometimes, more – productive.
“Defensive backs like Champ Bailey,” said Gilmore. “Even Charles Woodson when he played. So a lot of great players. Ty Law was a great one. (Darrelle) Revis wore it. A lot of great players that I looked up to wore that number, so it always stuck with me.
“Also, a lot of players from my hometown. Sheldon Brown and Johnathan Joseph. We’re all from the same hometown (the Rock Hill, S.C., area). Johnathan Joseph still plays in the league for the Texans, and Sheldon retired three years ago. He played in Philadelphia all those years. So that’s the number that I really wanted growing up, just from watching those guys.”
Just to be clear, Brown and Joseph did not attend the same high school as Gilmore. Brown went to Lewisville High and Joseph to Northwestern. Gilmore attended South Pointe High. No problem, he still looked up to them.
“(They went to) rivalry high schools,” he said, “but they all kind of mentored me through the whole process. I kind of knew what I had to look forward to in the future.”