The first tattoos, Sharrif Floyd says, came in 2007, when he was a sophomore at George Washington High School in Philadelphia. ¶ Teenage impulse as much as anything sent him to a classmate’s home, where the star defensive tackle had part of his name — “Rif” — inscribed down his left forearm and “Tonya,” his mother’s name, down the right. ¶ Once that canvas — now 6-feet-3 and 303 pounds — was splattered, Floyd couldn’t stop. With obvious pride, the Vikings rookie rolls through the 13 tattoos he has added since.
Up both arms, across his shoulders, sprawled across his torso.
They are enduring reminders that life is written in permanent ink with no eraser for the lessons, struggles or successes of the past.
Floyd nods at how cool the dagger on his left arm looks. And those words near his clavicle — “Life” on his right side, “Death” on the left — are a tribute to his Gemini roots. “Always two sides to everything,” he says.
Floyd stops longest at the scroll etched onto his right shoulder. This is his favorite.
“You may see the glory but you don’t know the story.”
Floyd’s current glory will come into focus when he reports to training camp in Mankato this week, eager to begin establishing himself as one of the NFL’s most disruptive defensive forces.
The explosive tackle was the Vikings’ top pick in April, drafted 23rd overall. He will soon finalize a four-year contract that should have a value north of $8 million.
Floyd recently bought a new Jaguar and is settling into a 6,500-square-foot home on a lake in St. Louis Park.
You see that glory.
But what about his story?
How many times should Floyd’s journey have detoured, seemingly always at risk of becoming a tragic tale of unfulfilled promise?
Floyd was 6 when his mother, Tonya Scott, lost custody, her life swallowed by the demons of drug addiction, depriving her of any consistent influence in his upbringing.
Throughout his childhood, Floyd lived in both Frankford, Pa., and in the rougher quarters of North Philadelphia, where poverty, violence and drugs reigned. Temptations loomed around every corner for kids left vulnerable by their anger and desperation.
“A hundred doors, a hundred traps,” Floyd says.
Adds Mike Wallace, a Floyd confidant: “Unfortunately that fast life envelops so many kids. Because they see that fast money. Nobody wants to take the time to go to school and develop as a person. Why would you want to do that when you see guys rolling around your neighborhood in BMWs and Benzes?”
All the while, despite the constant discipline, encouragement and unconditional love Sharrif received from his grandmother, Lucille Ryans, his upbringing also was overseen by Anthony Floyd, the man listed on his birth certificate as his father.
Who would have thought to question otherwise?