The players' body art honors ancestors, supplies motivation and provides reminders about where they've been or where they're hoping to go.


From children's birthdates to Bible verses, from family memorials to artist's renderings of their journeys to the NFL, many Vikings players wear their stories on their skin.

Some of the tattoos on their arms, legs and torsos are public declarations of a player's triumph, while others are private affirmations of purpose. Running back Alexander Mattison sketched the initial designs for tattoos that would depict his path out of one of America's most dangerous neighborhoods with a 4.8 GPA in high school and a certificate of biliteracy. Whenever first-round draft pick Jordan Addison needs a confidence boost, he glances at the tattoo on his right arm that shows his journey to the NFL.

"Every time you look at yourself, it reminds you. You feel like you're that guy," Addison said. "It's just always going to remind me that, look how far I came, and I've got to keep going."

Earlier this year, Star Tribune photographer Carlos Gonzalez shot portraits of Vikings players with an infrared camera that would show their tattoos in greater detail. We then talked with many of those players about the meaning and significance of their tattoos. Here are their stories.

Alexander Mattison

The running back brings his sketches to his California-based tattoo artist, who's responsible for making Mattison's ideas come to life. The butterflies on his upper left arm, which are also prominently featured in his I Am Gifted brand, "have come to mean a lot to me across my own mental health journey," Mattison said. A Lisfranc injury, the death of a close friend and a dispute with a professor nearly led him to quit football at Boise State, until he worked with team chaplain Mark Thornton on managing the stress in his life. "It's kind of the whole process of a butterfly, just growing, and signifying life and being free from all the burdens," Mattison said.

The designs on his lower left arm, of a power fist with roots and a Kente cloth below a scene from an African safari, are Mattison's effort to pay homage to his ancestors "who endured the times before now." The running back, who wears No. 2 and has the nickname "Deuce," got the drawing of an alien holding up two fingers to reference his faith: "From the spiritual realm of that, it was like, 'I'm not from here, so these worldly problems, there's light at the end of the tunnel.' "

Byron Murphy Jr.

All of the tattoos on the cornerback's right arm are for his 6-year-old son, Malakai. He had a portrait of his son tattooed on his right hand, based on a picture of him from the first NFL game he attended in 2019 when Murphy was a rookie. That tattoo is below a rendering of his son's footprints.

"And then it goes up to a staircase of heaven," Murphy said. "And then I've got the two lions, the dad and the cub. And then I've got the angel going up top, and I've got the world, because he means the world to me.

"The portrait on my hand is probably the best tattoo I have. That right arm sleeve is probably my favorite."

Jordan Addison

After winning the Biletnikoff Award as the top college receiver as a sophomore, Addison got a tattoo on his right arm that began with the address of his childhood home in Frederick, Md., and followed a road around obstacles to the NFL shield.

"That was always my goal, my path, to get to the NFL, so I've got that at the top," Addison said.

The name of his home state and a city skyline is tattooed on his left arm, with the phrase "Chosen 1" above it. "Out of my small family, I always felt like they looked upon me to be that guy to provide," Addison said. "Since a young age, I always felt like they seen something in me. So I just feel like I was chosen."

He then has a tattoo of three crosses along with the words, "Walk by faith, not by sight."

Akayleb Evans

The tattoo on the cornerback's right triceps muscle reads "Moment of Truth," a phrase he heard his position coach at Tulsa, Aaron Fletcher, say repeatedly. When Fletcher left Tulsa to become Missouri's secondary coach in 2021, Evans transferred there to play his final college season with Fletcher.

"When the ball's in the air, it's time to cover somebody or it's the last play of the game, it's the moment of truth," Evans said. "I like it a lot. You can utilize that in life."

The tattoo of Fletcher's words is next to an image of a clock. "I saw an image of it, and I liked it, because I feel like time is precious," Evans said.

Josh Oliver

The tight end has the same tattoo on his left pectoral muscle — the Bible verse Jeremiah 51:20-21 — as his two older brothers, who helped set the precedent that made it possible for Oliver to get one.

"My dad hates tattoos," Oliver said. "That was the biggest thing. But I had two people who did it in front of me, so it wasn't too bad of a fight."

The Old Testament verse, he said, "reminds us that any time you face adversity, God is with you."

Oliver got the scene on his left arm, of a Spartan boy facing a wolf from the movie "300," done after he finished playing for the San Jose State Spartans. He also sees it as a picture of his path to the NFL.

"I went to a small school. Got pretty low Division I offers," Oliver said. "I was always like the [Spartan] facing the wolf."

Josh Metellus

Metellus' first tattoo, on the right side of his chest, is of a timepiece with a lock on it, and a chain with the key to the lock. He got the tattoo after a conversation with a friend about patience that had stuck with him.

The safety has a tattoo on his right side with the names of his grandmother, mother and siblings in a tree, with roots stretching down to the number 305 (the Miami area code). Near it is a tattoo of a wolverine along with the Michigan block M, representing where he played in college.

"I think that's just a big part of my life — moving from Miami to Ann Arbor definitely helped me in a lot of ways," Metellus said. "I thought that was significant to show about myself, because I think that's a big part of my life."

The phrase "God given" runs down Metellus' left arm. "That was one of my most recent ones," he said. "I just thought it spoke to all the abilities I was given, being able to play this game and love what I do."