When Major League Soccer star Nick Rimando was 16, his mom didn’t exactly approve of how he used his older friend’s ID to get his first tattoo, a “typical tribal symbol” on his arm. When he arrived home, she became furious and tried to scrub it off. “She was hoping it was fake,” Rimando remembers, laughing.
Today, however, Rimando’s parents couldn’t be prouder. Not only has the UCLA grad become the star goalkeeper of Real Salt Lake, he was also voted most valuable player in the 2009 MLS Cup game versus the Los Angeles Galaxy. And at press time, the goalie who is on the U.S. Soccer Team’s extended roster was hoping to make the cut of U.S. players heading to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup. Rimando’s parents are also cool with his 29 tattoos, which include an angel, a fighting rooster, a dragon, an elephant, praying hands, and several quotes, including “Live and Learn” and “The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat.”
“Growing up, if you had a tattoo you were in a gang or you were a bad person,” Rimando says. “Being professional and in the spotlight, I always used to cover up my tattoos with long sleeves. But one day I was like, This is who I am. This is how I express myself. So I started wearing short sleeves again.”
Rimando has found a kindred spirit in Salt Lake City tattoo artist Gailon Justus, who did one of his favorite pieces, which is dedicated to his son, Jett. It’s a six-fingered hand making the “I love you” sign. “Jett was born with six fingers, but he had the extra digit removed when he was six months old,” Rimando says. Thinking back on the piece, the good-humored goalie breaks into a smile: “Everybody wanted us to keep [the extra finger], and I was down with that. I mean, if he’s gonna be the next goalkeeper, he’s gonna have a huge advantage with six fingers, y’know?”