Colorado man's tattoos show his devotion to Crimson Tide

Updated: October 17, 2006, 4:03 PM ET
Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Nathan Davis wears his devotion on his sleeve.

And his biceps. And neck. And back. And just about anywhere else he can find.

The 35-year-old Davis has turned his body into an indelible billboard for his favorite football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

A Crimson Tide elephant adorns his right bicep, and a tattoo of the late Paul "Bear" Bryant decorates the left one. A likeness of former UA quarterback Kenny "Snake" Stabler is tattooed inside his right forearm and the Alabama state flag is sketched inside his left one.

He has a matching set of signature Alabama A's inside each of his biceps, which he shows off when he flexes his muscles in the gym, and another one just below his Adam's apple. The outside of each of his forearms spells out the words "Rammer" and "Jammer," from the UA victory cheer.

His masterpiece, which cost $3,500 and took a couple of years to complete, is a portrait of Bryant leaning against a goalpost and wearing his trademark houndstooth hat. It covers the bulk of Davis' massive back.

"My co-workers and people at the gym are like, 'Why would you put a picture of another man on your body?'," Davis says. "And I'm like, 'That is not just another man. He is a disciple to me.' People don't understand. It's a religion."

And he has one more to come. He is saving up for a Mount Rushmore-like mural of Bryant and fellow national championship-winning coaches Gene Stallings, Frank Thomas and Wallace Wade across his chest, one of the few remaining patches of skin that hasn't been tattooed with the Tide.

Davis, who grew up in Dothan and worked for five years as an Atlanta police officer, now lives in Fort Collins, Colo., where he works for a company that does background checks for the government and the military.

He became a Crimson Tide fan while watching an Alabama-Auburn game with his grandfather, William B. Lee, when he was a youngster. Although his grandfather was an Auburn graduate, he revered Alabama's Bryant.

"They showed a picture of Bear Bryant, and my grandfather said, `That's one of the greatest men to ever walk this earth beside Jesus Christ and General (Robert E.) Lee," Davis recalls. "Then I heard the coach talk, and I fell in love. I'll never forget it."

Nine years later, Davis realized how serious a fan he had become while watching the 1985 Iron Bowl with his oldest brother, John, an Auburn fan who is six years older than Nathan. His big brother needled him right until the end of the game, which Alabama won on the final play.

"When Van Tiffin kicked that 52-yard-field goal, I jumped up screaming and got into the biggest fist-fight I have ever been in," he says. "I had blood all over my face. My lips and nose were bleeding.

"At that moment, I went from being a fan to a fanatic. I never felt so proud of my team, because I bled for them."

That intense loyalty to Alabama cost him his first marriage, he says.

"I got divorced, and I would say 50 percent of that was because of my love of football," he says. "She couldn't take Alabama; she couldn't take football. And it is my life."

Now, though, Davis has found a woman who, if she doesn't understand his passion, at least accepts it.

"It's great that he's fanatical about something," says his fiancee, Bobby Bienvenue, an upstate New York native whom he met at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Colorado. "But I'm a northern girl, so I have a different view. I'm not fanatical about anything. That's the difference between where you grew up."

However, most folks out in Colorado don't know what to make of Davis' fanaticism, he says.

"One of these local Colorado men asked me, 'What has UA ever done for you?'," he says. "I thought on it for a second and said, 'Sir, my mama always told me it doesn't make a difference how you find God, as long as you find him. And through UA, Bear Bryant, and Van Tiffin, I have found God.'

"He then said, 'You people from the South are weird."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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