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Giants rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux pays for Graham Gano's No. 5 jersey with $50K donation to charity

When Kayvon Thibodeaux spoke in his introductory press conference after being selected No. 5 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, the edge rusher made sure to mention his willingness to spend big to obtain his desired jersey number, saying that it could take a lot of "zeroes" to acquire No. 5.

After all, the number's owner, Giants kicker Graham Gano, had already rejected one teammate's offer for the number, when Jabrill Peppers attempted to make a trade with Gano last season but left empty-handed after saying Gano's asking price was "too high."

But by Monday, Thibodeaux had won the jersey, and the deal he made with Gano sent payment in the form of a $50,000 donation to the charity Puppies Behind Bars.

"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. "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."

Puppies Behind Bars provides service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, in addition to explosive-detection canines for law enforcement. The charity also provides healing on the other end of the process, as the puppies are raised by incarcerated individuals. According to its mission statement, 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. PBB programs bring the love and healing of dogs to hundreds of individuals every year. The dogs bring hope and pride to their raisers, and independence and security to those they serve."

Both Gano and Thibodeaux have expressed that wearing No. 5 has a special significance to them. For Thibodeaux, the number represents his five friends who believed in him, and the promise he made to them that they would all be successful. And for Gano, he chose No. 5 when he signed with the Giants in 2020 to pay homage to his five children, who inspired him during his 20 months away from football while dealing with injuries to his left plant leg.

So Gano knew that if he was going to finally give up No. 5, he would have to make sure the deal was worth it. And being able to make a donation to a charity that was close to his heart fit the bill. Gano comes from a long military family tradition, and the Giants had previously worked with the charity to present a puppy to a soldier at a home game, so Puppies Behind Bars was the perfect choice.

"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," Gano said.

Gano will now be wearing No. 9 in 2022, which had had worn with the Carolina Panthers earlier in his career, and he's not totally disappointed. His wife wore No. 9 as a college softball player, so the number still honors his family. Gano says he's just happy to be able to play and make a difference using his platform.

"We get to play a kid's game for a living, and it's an honor to be able to wear that uniform, no matter what number is on it. I'm just thankful to have the opportunity," Gano said. "I'm definitely excited to be wearing nine again, but at the end of the day, almost having football taken away from me for a long period of time and potentially my career at one point, I'm just thankful to be playing the game.

"As NFL players, we've been given such a great platform to make a difference in the community. There are so many people, kids and families, that look up to us as professional football players that whenever you're given an opportunity to make a difference, I feel like you have to jump on it and make the most of it. ... 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."

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