The behemoth-filled locker rooms of the NFL are a place where most players can blend in. A rare setting in which, among their robust peers, they aren’t the largest human being in the room. Nonetheless, every locker room has its outliers — a guy or two that catches your eye right away — the “Vince Wilfork-s” and “Alan Branch-s” of the world.
Cassius Marsh is one of those guys.
But at 6’4” and a shade under 250 pounds, it isn’t the size of the Patriots’ newest pass-rushing acquisition that draws your immediate attention — it’s the burst of color emanating from a sophisticated, tangled network of tattoos enveloping his upper body.
Certainly tattoos aren’t a recent trend among professional athletes. In fact, it would be a surprise to find a locker room with less than half of its personnel participating in the accent custom in some form or fashion. But few can match Marsh’s extensive inventory. Seriously. The native southern Californian has more ink than an office full of newly-signed mortgages. All the result of countless hours spent under the steady, skilled hand of a trusted artist.
“The tattoo is like me, a representation of who I am in tattoo form.” Marsh told The MMQB in their Tattoos of the NFL piece, describing the Native American headdress-wearing polar bear that encompasses the width between his shoulder blades. Above it, written in dark script, the name “Lee” — a tribute to his grandfather, of whom he takes his middle name. The work stretches from the base of his neck to his lower lats.
"My dad’s called me ‘Polar Bear,’ basically, since the day I was born.” Marsh goes on to say. “My parents are mixed, and I came out, obviously, very, very, very light-skinned. So my dad called me ‘Polar Bear,’ and they’re the most vicious bears on the planet. So that’s what I’ve attached myself to, the polar bear. The Native American headdress is—my mom is Creole, my Dad has Native in him. The bear’s got the crosses over the eyes; I wear that in games.”
Marsh’s shoulder blades don dueling night versus day-themed city skylines, each connecting the intricate work from his back to the multitude of flowing designs that cover his pectorals, and blanket each of his long, powerful arms.
“I get my tattoos from Tony Adamson from “A Minds Eye” in Boise, Idaho. It’s the number one tattoo parlor in Boise. Really talented guy.” Marsh told Samuel Gold of FieldGulls.com during training camp this summer.
After taking one look at the tattoo-covered Marsh, perhaps the last thing you take him for would be a Magic The Gathering enthusiast — or an anime fanatic — but he is indeed both. Cassius Marsh is just a different cat.
Yes, there is more to a man than the art, or lack thereof, on his skin. Is it “easy” to observe and remark upon the glaringly obvious, like a man’s tattoos? Sure. But Marsh’s tattoos simply serve as a colorful reminder of the hundreds of different off-field personalities that fill NFL rosters — and just how often those personalities veer from our expectations when the pads come off.
Of course it wasn’t the colorful tattoos that attracted the eye of the Patriots pro personnel department this offseason. By sending the Seattle Seahawks a fifth and seventh-round pick in next year’s draft this past weekend, the Patriots were able to secure a pass-rushing target they had reportedly coveted all summer.
Bill Belichick’s willingness to part with such late-round draft capital should strongly suggest the type of contributor he feels he has acquired in Marsh, as the former fourth-round pick of out UCLA has not only shown above average special teams ability, but reportedly has flashed this preseason in pass-rushing situations.
Only time will tell if Marsh will be able to carve out a role for himself in Matt Patricia’s defense this season. But his on-field impact set aside, there is no doubt that the Patriots have added a unique personality to the locker room.
“Right now I don’t have any new ideas.” Marsh told Samuel Gold. “I’m just trying to clean up the stuff I have now. You never know with tattoos, I could come up with something tomorrow.”
His tattoos, like his game, are always a work in progress.