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Original Issue

Tale of My Tattoo

JEREMY SHOCKEY Giants tight end

"I DIDN'T WANT something [that] 20 years later I'd be, Why did I get this?" says Shockey, who got the inking--his first--in the summer. "It speaks for itself. I'm proud to live in this country, to have the right to express anything you want.... I'm very American." The tattoo took 21 hours over three days, including a stretch of 16 straight hours. Says Shockey, "Six hours in I was, like, 'Just keep going.' Definitely painful."

MATT WILLIG Rams offensive tackle

THE IMAGE IS of the Willigs' traditional family crest from Germany. "We're a close-knit family," says Willig, one of six football-playing brothers from Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Two of his brothers have the tattoo, and he wants Dad, Charles, to get it--an idea Mom, Genevieve, nixed. She's also trying to get the 6'8", 315-pound Willig to scotch plans for another tat. "I might give in," says Matt, "if she lets my dad get [this] one."

SAM AIKEN Bills wide receiver

AFTER AIKEN WAS offensive MVP at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in high school in 1998, a paper dubbed him a "sleeper" because he was from a small school. Aiken got the moniker on his torso for motivation and made it "unique" by putting it in foreign lettering. "I thought Greek looked best," he says. A little-known star on Buffalo's excellent special teams unit, Aiken says, "I guess the nickname still fits."

PHOTO

JERALD PINKUS/WIREIMAGE.COM (SHOCKEY TATTOO)

PHOTO

EVAN PINKUS/WIREIMAGE.COM (SHOCKEY HEAD SHOT)

TWO PHOTOS

BILL STOVER (WILLIG TATTOO, WILLIG HEAD SHOT)

TWO PHOTOS

BILL WIPPERT (AIKEN TATTOO, AIKEN HEAD SHOT)