Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux enters the stage after being...

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux enters the stage after being picked by the Giants with the fifth pick of the NFL draft on April 28 in Las Vegas.  Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong

NFL players routinely trade uniform numbers — for a fee, of course — but kicker Graham Gano exchanging his No. 5 to newly minted Giants pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux involved a very meaningful twist.

Thibodeaux wore the number during his illustrious career at Oregon, and Gano had a feeling there would be an inquiry from the No. 5 overall pick about No. 5 on the Giants’ roster.

“I was like, ‘Man, I guarantee if we draft him, he’s going to want my number,’ ” Gano told Giants.com.

Fine.

But Gano came up with an idea that included a special benefit. Gano asked Thibodeaux to make a $50,000 donation to Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that provides service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, as well as explosive-detection dogs for law enforcement.

“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,” the 35-year-old Gano quipped. Gano also wore No. 9 while with the Carolina Panthers. “The opportunity to give to something is exciting, and the number is obviously very special to Kayvon. I just wanted to be a good teammate and also be able to support others throughout the whole process.”

Graham and his wife, Brittany, got the idea from watching a presentation during a Giants’ home game, when a service dog was presented to a soldier during a timeout. Gano’s father, Mark, served in the U.S. Navy for 30 years, and several of Gano’s relatives are also in the military.

“I’ve seen the sacrifices that are made in those families,” Gano said, “and also the traumatic events that happen that take a toll on some people’s lives.”

There’s another unique element to Puppies Behind Bars: the dogs are trained by incarcerated individuals.

“The PBB programs bring the love and healing of dogs to hundreds of individuals every year,” according to the organization’s mission statement. “The dogs bring hope and pride to their raisers, and independence and security to those they serve.”

In his two seasons with the Giants, Gano has set franchise records with 37 consecutive field goals and 12 field goals of 50 yards or longer.

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