The Story Within the Ink
By Brian Shim
Serving as a bridge between body and art, tattoos often carry unspoken significance and a sense of pride. Through their uniqueness they express individuality, while their permanence reflects a dedication to the meanings behind them. Many of the athletes that we admire today, from the world stage to our own on Huntington Ave, showcase a diverse collection of tattoos that tell stories that we may never hear.
Some athletes use the medium as a way to pay respect to those who have guided them along their journeys, as men’s soccer sophomore Omar Da Naia has chosen to do.
Da Naia, whose father was diagnosed with cancer in 2019, tattooed his parents’ birthdates in Roman numerals on his left wrist in August of last year, and three months later surrounded them with ink bracelets that say ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ in Portuguese – a heartfelt reminder that he brings them with him everywhere he goes.
“I wanted to honor my parents,” Da Naia said. “My dad was literally there at every single training, every single game. He didn’t miss one, even when he was diagnosed and wasn’t supposed to go outside.
“My dad passed away before seeing [the bracelets], but I love my tattoos and they remind me of him.”
Growing up, his parents’ dedication and support for him always matched his own passion for soccer, and Da Naia now believes that his tattoos are a way to carry that love and support with him to help improve as a collegiate athlete.
“I kiss them every time I go into a game and say, ‘this is for my parents,” he said.
Men’s basketball junior Myles Franklin uses his tattoos to wear his faith as armor. His initial piece of ink was the Bible passage Isaiah 41:10, surrounded by clouds and doves.
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The winged and shield-bearing guardian angel on Franklin’s outer forearm brings color to the sleeve, serving to remind him that he is always being watched over and protected. Similarly, the shadow of Jesus, which sits behind the lion’s head that wraps around his upper arm, represents the guidance of his faith behind his every action.
With his tattoos, Franklin holds his faith close at all times, as it impacts him in life and in sport: “I pray before every game… religion is important to me and it’s something I’m always thinking about.”
The diamond heart that sits on Franklin’s lower tricep also holds a special meaning. It serves as a reminder of the struggle he faced with abnormal electrical activity in his heart earlier in his athletic career.
“After one of our games in my junior year of high school, I noticed my heart was beating super strange and I had to go to the hospital,” Franklin recalled.
It was then that Franklin underwent cardiac ablation surgery, which removed the faulty electrical pathways in his heart and prevented him from developing further complications such as atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardias, or other heartbeat irregularities.
“If I hadn’t gotten it fixed, I don’t know if I could have kept playing basketball and gotten to where I am today.”
On the idea of getting more tattoos, both Da Naia and Franklin share the same bright enthusiasm on being able to express themselves through the art. However, they also share similar concerns on getting more ink, as Da Naia explained: “We’ll see if my mom will allow it – that’s probably the biggest obstacle I’ve got.”