There were mornings as a young child that Nes Andrion yearned for the mother who he says left him behind in the Philippines at the tender age of 8 months old and times his stomach burned with hunger from so many inadequate meals - too often just bread and coffee, even as a toddler. There were days, he says, his feet grew sore from having no shoes and his back ached from sleeping on a hard dirt floor - "just a bed sheet, no pillow," he recalls.
Through it all, though, a simple dream carried him.
The kid was an artist. The kid could draw. He could create. He reveled in the moment it all came together.
And so, sure, Nes Andrion grew up about as poor as you can in this world - "rock bottom," he says - raised by his aunt and uncle, in a tiny, crowded house on the side of the steep, thick mountains above Olongapo City, the Filipino port town.
He always saw something bigger, though. He saw art. His art, splashed across countries he could hardly fathom, seen by millions of people he could barely envision.
"I wanted to spread my art around the whole world," Andrion said Thursday. "I wanted everyone to see it."
Some improbable dreams will be realized when the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens meet in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.
None, however, will defy the odds of this: Nes Andrion, the child raised in crushing Third World poverty will have his artwork beamed in front of a global audience of hundreds of millions, on display via the most non-traditional of canvases: the arms of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Andrion is a tattoo artist. Now 35, he lives in Reno, Nev., where he immigrated at age 10, was drawn into working with ink after high school and in 2007 watched a tall, redshirt freshman quarterback from the University of Nevada walk into his small, humble shop and ask for a tattoo.
Andrion didn't know who Kaepernick was that day, although his height and build suggested a considerable athlete. Kaepernick didn't know who Andrion was either. He arrived on the recommendation of a friend. They immediately hit it off.
"I had him do one piece, I really liked it, and I've been going to him ever since," Kaepernick told reporters on Thursday.
Across hours and hours of Andrion covering Kaepernick's back, shoulders and arms with elaborate ink designs, the two became friends - the Californian headed for professional football and the artist from the other side of the earth.
"He's everything you want your kids to be," said Andrion, who texts regularly with the QB. "A real humble guy, quiet. He was always like that. Just a nice guy."
Kaepernick often had a specific idea of what he wanted done, sometimes a motivational saying, often from the Bible. He's focused on drawing inspiration from his tattoos.
"Against All Odds," is emblazoned across his chest. A version of Psalm 27:3 "Though an army besiege me, my heart will not be afraid" can be read on his left shoulder. Those words are surrounded by: "God Will Guide Me," which is Andrion's favorite.
"That's life," he said.
Then there is Kaepernick's back, a mural of angels and demons that took 18 hours over a couple of sessions to complete and has earned Andrion artistic acclaim.
Kaepernick burst onto the national stage in midseason when he became the 49ers' starting quarterback. Suddenly the heavily inked arms were flashing across television screens. "You don't see quarterbacks like that," Andrion said.
First there was curiosity, then some negative press and then a backlash of support.
As a show of confidence to his critics, Kaepernick has taken to "Kaepernicking" - kissing both biceps (he has "faith" inscribed on his right and "to God the glory" on his left).
SOURCE: Dan Wetzel