Tattoo artist Jeremy Taylor — stout at 35, and with his body fully inked to include a Kansas City Chiefs arrow on his left pinkie, an arrowhead on his right wrist and a tiny but faded Chiefs helmet beneath his left eye (He’s having that removed. “I don’t want to go to my kids’ schools with tattoos on my face,” he said) — had yet to break out his needles.
Time first to shave his client’s ankle.
“Hop on up here,” Taylor, owner of Skin Quest Tattoos, 3747 Broadway Blvd., instructed this week, prompting his client, Rob Gaskins, 33, a hefty and garrulous trucking instructor, to whine in mock anticipation of needles hitting the skin above his ankle bone.
“It’s going to hurt!” Gaskins shrieked, laughing. “It’s going to hurt!”
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He pulled up the right leg of his sweat pants, figuring the pain would be worth it.
The Belton father of five climbed, stood on top of a massage table, and revealed Taylor’s previous work — a gallery of Gaskins’ sports and movie heroes running from calf to thigh and rendered in colored ink:
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, martial arts actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, basketball star Kevin Durrant. Today, he was getting the character Hamilton Porter from the movie “Sandlot” inked onto his ankle, ouch, nope, make that his inside thigh. Chiefs coach Andy Reid will one day stand beneath his right butt cheek, (sorry, Andy).
But amidst this hall of fame gallery, facing forward from Gaskins’ thigh, was the player — only in his first year as a starting quarterback — whom Gaskins had already declared to be “the greatest to ever have a football in his hands.”
Patrick Mahomes, now part of Gaskins’ body forever.
Other tattoo parlors say they’ve seen at most a slight rise in requests for Chiefs ink, not quite mirroring the team’s rising fortunes.
“We do our fair share of them here, fairly consistent,” said Val Weaver, manager at Catalyst Arts Collection, 500 Southwest Blvd. “KC is a pride big city. But it would be hard to tell if it’s been more than before.”
But Taylor said that for him, in the last two months, business has risen as high as the decibel level at Arrowhead Stadium, with all credit going to the record-breaking quarterback phenom.
In years past, Taylor said, “every now and then a die-hard fan might come in and get something. But now, I have an in-box completely full of people wanting Chiefs tattoos. Where you might get one person every two months before, you’re getting two or three people a week now.”
Perhaps not since the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in 1970 has there been a fan feeling quite like this in Kansas City. Maybe somewhat, at times, when there was hope in the 1990s with Marcus Allen and Derrick Thomas, or perhaps in the early 2000s with Priest Holmes. But with Mahomes:
“It’s different,” Taylor said.
He knows because he is a lifelong and massive fan, with a dad as a season ticket holder. The Christmas tree at his Blue Springs home is colored in Chiefs red and gold, as are his bedroom and shower curtain. His wife, Aimee, is such a fan, she dyed her black hair red and plans to change half to Chiefs golden yellow.
The man actually tattooed a Chiefs helmet on his face. Even before Mahomes ever took a professional snap, the couple and their six kids knew what to call their new Great Dane.
“I named my dog Mahomes after we drafted him,” Taylor said. “Everybody was like, ‘What if he’s a bust?’ I was like, ‘He ain’t gonna be a bust.’ It’s different with him.
“For the first time ever, instead of feeling like you’re up two touchdowns and you’re still going to lose, you can be down two touchdowns and have faith you’re going to win.
“That’s the difference. That’s the f****ing difference. I don’t care if it was (quarterbacks) Alex Smith or Trent Green or whoever the hell threw the ball for us. Your whole life, if you were going to be in a big game as a Chiefs fan, you knew you were going to lose. Period. It didn’t matter. You didn’t even try to get excited, you know what I mean?
“Now … for the first time ever, I’m standing in front of my TV and I’m like, ‘This kid can do it!’ You know what I mean?”
Fans know exactly what he means — which is why his phone is ringing and ringing. He is booked with Chiefs tattoos for weeks and, if he wanted, could be for months.
Demand erupted quickly. It happened in early October at a tattoo convention in Columbia. The Carnival of Ink took place the same weekend the Chiefs beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 30 to 14, making them 5-0 for the season then. Fans were already wondering, if Mahomes was the Chiefs long-awaited messiah.
The woman who asked for the image had driven 2 1/2 hours and had it inked behind her knee.
It was Taylor’s first finished portrait of Mahomes — the same he’d later do on Gaskins’ thigh showing Mahomes, curly hair spilling over his black Chiefs headband, staring out onto the field. The image would go on to win top honors at the convention, which posted it on social.
Taylor did the same.
“Then people started stealing the picture and adding it to these Chiefs groups on Facebook,” Taylor said. “It just went nuts, got like 1,000 shares.”
Proud, Taylor sent a photo to Mahomes via Instagram. The quarterback wrote back.
“Yeah, I saved it. I have a screen shot of it,” Taylor said. He scrolled through his phone and pulled up Mahomes’ response at seeing the tattoo:
“Haha that is crazy nice tho,” Mahomes wrote.
Taylor was thrilled.
“That was awesome,” he said.
Less than two weeks later, a reporter for The New York Times, writing about Mahomes mania, included a photo of Taylor inking Mahomes’ face onto Gaskins’ leg.
That did it.
Sports talk-show hosts called to interview him. The image went everywhere.
With his team at 9-2 and contenders for the Super Bowl, Taylor now inks a roster of Chiefs images.
“Kelce is probably the most (popular) after Mahomes, and for good reason,” Taylor said. “He’s a bad ass.”
He’s already inscribed Reid and, for nostalgic fans, the late linebacker Derrick Thomas. He’s been asked to do all manner of arrowheads and modified Chiefs logos. Gaskins is in the midst of getting a new tattoo to span the top of his back, from shoulder to shoulder, showing Kauffman Stadium on the left and Arrowhead on the right.
“I’ve got a lady that I’m in the middle of doing a double portrait of Mahomes and Kelce on the sidelines right now,” said Taylor, noting that each of the portraits costs between $400 and $600 and generally takes five to eight hours, depending on people’s pain thresholds.
The portraits are at least the size of a human hand and usually bigger.
“I have to do it at least a decent size,” Taylor said, “so I can get the face correct. … Matching the skin tone, facial expression, those are all the hardest parts to do. The eyes and the mouth are always most important.”
Taylor even has several Chiefs players as clients, although not Mahomes so far.
His prediction is that Mahomes will, in time, bring Kansas City “three Lombardis,” three Super Bowl Vince Lombardi trophies. Seeing one new one would make quite the indelible image for Chiefs fans.
“I’m getting to do my job with something I love,” he said. “And Mahomes is a Greek god. I wouldn’t be excited to tattoo (former Chiefs QB) Matt Cassel, if you know what I mean.”
Yes, no need to draw a picture.