January 31, 2013

Tattoo artist nabs $16 million in free ads with Kaepernick's ink


The 49ers have been hard to beat since Kaepernick became the starter, going 7-2, including playoff wins over Green Bay and Atlanta. San Francisco is a 3 1/2-point favorite in the Super Bowl.

Kaepernick's relationship with Andrion, who charges up to $120 an hour, began as a freshman at the University of Nevada. A number of the school's athletes had tattoos done by Andrion and word of his work eventually reached the 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback. Now he goes nowhere else.

"I had him do one piece," Kaepernick told reporters last week. "I really liked it and I've been going to him ever since."

The first tattoo, on his throwing shoulder, was Psalm 18:39, which reads, "You arm me with strength for battle."

The good fortune isn't lost on Andrion, who says he came to the United States in 1990 after growing up poor in the Philippines, often sleeping on a dirt floor, eating only bread for breakfast and walking the 1 1/2 miles to school in flip flops that didn't match.

Kaepernick's tattoos became a topic of debate after AOL columnist David Whitley wrote on Nov. 28 that an NFL quarterback shouldn't look like a convict.

"NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility," Whitley said. "He is the CEO of a high- profile organization, and you don't want your CEO to look like he just got paroled."

Andrion laughs, saying Kaepernick is everything you'd want your kids to be.

Andrion, who says he's never made more than $28,000 a year, wants to focus on building his business and passing along his good fortune by offering apprenticeships to anyone with a desire to learn the tattoo trade.

"Give them a chance to be who they want to be," said Andrion, who declined to disclose how much the quarterback has spent on his tattoos.

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