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How a childhood obsession led Ashlynn Shade to her jersey number

Shade wears No. 12 because of a prominent NFL quarterback, but not one you'd expect.

Photo: Ian Bethune

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How a childhood obsession led Ashlynn Shade to her jersey number

For UConn freshman Ashlynn Shade, it’s not hard to see that her jersey number holds significance. The Indiana native wears a large No. 12 on a necklace — the number she chose to wear at UConn.

“Number 12 has always been my favorite number,” Shade explained. “My dad got me this necklace.”

How did No. 12 come to be her favorite number? It has to do with an NFL quarterback — just not one of the obvious No. 12s.

Even though Shade grew up in Noblesville, Indiana — suburb of Indianapolis — during the height of the Andrew Luck Era, it’s not because of the Colts’ former No. 12. And while she might be going to college in New England, it’s not Tom Brady, “Indiana doesn't like Tom Brady that much.”

Instead, Shade’s attention was drawn north to Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“It's kind of funny,” she started, “but I chose number 12 when I was younger because I was obsessed with Aaron Rodgers. So ever since that, I've always wanted to be 12 and I'm just so grateful that I get the opportunity to be 12 here. But yeah, that's where it came from and I've just always stuck with that.”

Shade readily admits that she doesn’t “follow football that much,” so how did she come to love Rodgers? Simple: She was an impressionable young kid.

“When I was younger in elementary school, I had the biggest crush on him and so I loved Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers,” she said. “I didn't understand football at all but I knew that I liked Aaron Rodgers. So I was like ‘I have to be 12.’”

While 12 has stuck with Shade, her Aaron Rodgers phase has not. Even though the quarterback now plays for the New York Jets — in fact, he doesn’t even wear 12 anymore, he’s switched to 8 — her allegiances lie elsewhere, with a team also led by a golden boy quarterback: Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. Shade’s reasoning for that one is much more straightforward.

“I have a twin brother, he's like my best friend and he's a big Ohio sports guy,” she said. “We're Cincinnati Reds fans, he's been a Bengals fan forever… Now if I had to pick a team, it would be the Bengals because of support for my brother. If he likes the Bengals, then I like the Bengals.”

As she begins her freshman season, Shade will try to create her own legacy behind No. 12. The digits don’t have an extensive history at UConn — only six players have ever worn it, none of whom did all that much outside of Saniya Chong.

Shade could be the best No. 12 in UConn history, but she’s not worried about any of that right now. For now, she has a much shorter focus.

“I just want to figure everything out and work my hardest to just figure everything out,” she said. “I just want to come here and work hard and just take everything in one day at a time.”

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