Cardinals safety Budda Baker takes jersey numbers very seriously.
"There's a lot of history with these numbers," Baker said after minicamp on Tuesday.
After all, Aeneas Williams' 35, Pat Tillman's 40 and even the No. 3 worn by quarterback Carson Palmer are posted over the field at State Farm Stadium.
At Bellevue High School and the University of Washington, Baker wore No. 32. But, after he was taken by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2017 draft, he had to change that.
Tyrann Mathieu patrolled the secondary with that number on, so the Cardinals gave Baker two options.
"I had 32 my whole life, once I got to the league, I was 36," Baker said. "I was a second-round pick in the draft. So, they gave me like two numbers to choose, it was like 36 or 22. So 36 meant it had some resemblance."
After Baker's rookie season, the Cardinals let Mathieu go, and the golden No. 32 opened up for the taking. Baker wore it from 2018-2020, becoming an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in it just like Mathieu.
But, when the NFL expanded the numbers rules so that defensive backs could choose between 1-49 this offseason, Baker knew he was going to go in another direction.
"When they said they were going to possibly allow it, I already knew in my mind that I was going to switch," Baker said. "Once I was allowed the single digits, what (defensive back) or what safety have you ever seen wear a single-digit number in the league? Has never happened. So for me, I'm just very excited to have that number, have it be my own number."
Baker said he's loved the No. 3 since watching Basketball Hall of Famer Allen Iverson own it while growing up. The Cardinal called himself a big basketball fan, and said he appreciated the swag and effort that Iverson displayed on the court for over a decade.
The fifth-year safety has decided that he wants No. 3 to be his own for the Cardinals, to play so well in it that no one ever puts it on again in red and white.
To do so will take continued on-field production and leadership.
On the turf, he showed excellence last season with 90 tackles, two interceptions and seven tackles for loss.
As a leader, he continues to grow.
"He's a natural leader because of how he plays and he's got the courage to be a truth teller that makes that makes Budda special," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Wednesday.
"Budda has always been vocal, but I think now he he feels like he can take over this entire team. He plays so hard. You can't deny when Budda's asking you to do something extra or something special on game day, because he's going to do it first. And that's the first trait of leadership is service, and he's always going to be first."
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons reciprocated the sentiment.
Simmons told a story on Wednesday that the two ran during practice at full speed. The second-year linebacker mentioned that he is the faster runner, but that Baker looked faster by how hard he ran.
"That honestly, it just motivates me to just move faster and faster," Simmons said Wednesday. "He's a guy who leads by example."
Baker turned 25 this offseason and is signed through 2024 after agreeing to an extension last year.
That leaves him time to build up the accolades in the Valley to work his way towards his goal of becoming the first single-digit-wearing defensive back in the Cardinals Ring of Honor.