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Redskins Tattoo Man

Two years before he joined the Army, Kevin J. McCarthy Jr. decided he'd like to get a tattoo. His wife encouraged him to draw up a design. So he thought of the usual subjects--you know, death imagery and the like-- and then rejected them.

"It's not like a skull or a bone or anything like that," McCarthy acknowledged this afternoon, as he reviewed the great Burgundy landscape of Redskinsana covering his body. "Those, I would have regretted. This, I'll never regret."

What, exactly, is "this?" His right arm has, among other things, a Redskins helmet, images of the team's three Super Bowl trophies, six empty trophies ("for future fill-ins"), the name and initials of the three Redskins Super Bowl MVPs--John Riggins, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien--and the signatures of those three men, which McCarthy collected himself and then delivered to his tattoo artist.

"Riggins said, 'Well, when he's throwing back a beer, at least I'll know where I'll be--on the bar'," McCarthy recalled.

His back, though, is the real showstopper, with old and new team helmets and the names, numbers, positions and years inducted for all 20 Redskins in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made to resemble a football card. There's an empty space of about an inch-and-a-half at the bottom, which McCarthy figures will be good for two more names--"I was hoping for Darrell Green and Art Monk," he told me. And after that?

"Hopefully my son's back," he said. "No, I'm joking."

Right. Anyhow, the arm required four sessions, nine hours and about $1,000 (and for trivia buffs, the tattoo artist accidentally put the final "I" from Super Bowl XXII on the end of Super Bowl XXVI, making it appear as if Mark Rypien were the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII. So his forearm is like a collector's edition.). The back took three sessions, 16 hours and about $3,000. The work was finally completed this spring.

McCarthy is a native of the area, 35 years old, an NIH contractor who lives in Germantown and often wears a Redskins Halloween mask as he drives home from work; "just to freak people out," he explained. And the body art has made him a minor Redskins celebrity, leading Joe Gibbs to invite him on stage during the team's Draft Day party this spring. "Ahhh, Redskins tattoo guy," a team employee said today as McCarthy walked toward the practice field. (He was the first one in line, arriving about two and a half hours before practice started.)

TV cameras lined up for interviews. Fellow spectators requested photographs, requiring McCarthy to unbutton the back of his specially tailored t-shirt, which peels away to reveal the Hall of Fame tattoo.

"It's amazing," said Shane Eckert, who came Eastern Pennsylvania for training camp. "I haven't seen a tattoo like that. That's a fan there."

"That's a fan right there," agreed Mike Guccio of Staten Island. "He's nuts." (Of course, bear in mind that Guccio has a massive image of his own grinning face tattooed onto his chest, so "nuts" is probably somewhat relative.)

As for McCarthy, I figured his family members might have disapproved, but he reported that all is well. His parents told him maybe he should take a tattoo breather, and his wife, well, " I can't play for the team, so I might as well support them," McCarthy said he told her. "She said, 'We'd be richer if you were playing'."

Fans continue to give him suggestions for future work; someone today recommended he tattoo the lyrics to the fight song on his chest, for example. He said he's considering a bunch of different ideas; Redskins faces, perhaps. And he apparently has no fear of losing his particular allegiance.

"My coffin will be Redskins-ed out," he promised. "As far as I know, they're available."

[Images of the tattoos will arrive later.]

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 27, 2007; 6:34 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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