Tattoos Hold Special Significance For Ohio Football Players

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It has become a rarity to see a football player without some kind of tattoos.

Tattoos are popular with the members of the Ohio University football team, as one player told me he estimated that about 90 percent of the guys on the team have at least one tattoo.

The tattoos that the players have range from bible verses, to symbols, to quotes, to team logos, and most have a special meaning to each player.

“My rib tattoo is the Ultimate Measure of a Man … It’s a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech that talks about what to do when everyone’s eyes aren’t watching you,” Ohio senior running back Tim Edmond said, who noted he has “about 20” tattoos.

Edmond discussed how, during his semester off, he would get up at 9 a.m. and go to the nearest open field with his Sparq training kit and work out. Sometimes he would be out there for two or three hours, and then play some pick-up basketball to work on his endurance.

He did this about every day until he finally enrolled in college.

“When I didn’t go straight from high school to college, I really, really worked hard so when I got to college, I could be a step ahead of everyone else,” he said.

For freshman wide receiver Robbie Walker, his most meaningful tattoo is one he believes is one-of-a-kind.

“The camouflage on my arm is something not too many people probably have,” he said. “It means a lot to me because I know that I have to be like a soldier no matter what, for everything I will go through in life.”

However, tattoos haven’t always been such an accepted part of our society.

In a story from Oct. 2013, former Lamar University men’s basketball coach Pat Knight talked about a time when he was recruiting a high school player as an assistant coach for his dad Bobby Knight at Indiana University in 1998.

There was an issue with the recruit–he had visible tattoos on his arms.

“It was like the first summer where kids actually had tattoos where you could see them,” Knight told the Hardin County News last year.

But times are different. More often than not, if you turn on any sporting event, it will be a rarity to see athletes without visible tattoos than those that do have them.

“Every generation has something,” Lamar football coach Ray Woodard told the Hardin County News. “[My generation] it was the hair. We were growing our hair longer and that was the thing the older generation did not like … What concerns me is that as we grew older, we could always cut our hair. I don’t know what these tattoos are going to look like when those players are my age.”

Many of the Bobcats got their first tattoos while they were in high school, like Walker.

“I was 16 and my freshman year of high school. My dad paid for it, so I got a cross on my shoulder with some things around it such as clouds and fire, symbolizing that through the good and the bad, you got to have something to believe in through it all,” he said.

When getting tattoos that young, sometimes people develop second thoughts about the design, meaning, or even the decision to get the tattoo. Senior wide receiver Landon Smith is one of those.

“I probably would have done something different with the big ‘330’ on my forearm,” he said as he stared at the tattoo. “I’m trying to get it covered up now.”

But most players say there’s still room for more.

“One of the guys has a tribal tattoo down his arm and onto his chest,” said Smith, “I think I’d like something like that some day. I’m getting some new ink in a few weeks, trying to get a sleeve going.”

“I think I might have to finish up my legs because I’m running out of room on my arms,” said Walker,” and no regrets so far.”