Inked Up: Vikings’ John Sullivan

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.

Even in the Minnesota winter, don’t be surprised to see Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan wearing a sleeveless shirt.

Pride will keep him warm.

Sullivan’s love of his college alma mater – Notre Dame – is reflected by the green-and-black tattoo on his left shoulder. The school’s bearded leprechaun mascot is featured with muscular arms folded wearing a tank top bearing No. 78. That was Sullivan’s college jersey number (Sullivan wears No. 65 now since No. 78 was already taken by ex-left tackle Bryant McKinnie when the former was drafted by Minnesota in 2008).

Sullivan said he had the work done shortly after turning 18 years old.

“I thought to myself at the time, ‘You’ll probably regret this later,’” Sullivan told FOXSports.com. “But I thought I would regret it more if I looked back when I was 50 and said, ‘Man, I was too soft to get a tattoo.’ At least I could say I was dumb when I was 18.”

Another feature that makes Sullivan’s body art unique is the placement of the school’s “ND” logo on the left arm of the leprechaun for what he calls a “tattoo inside a tattoo” look.

“The guy who designed it put it on there,” Sullivan said. “I was like, ‘Yeah. That’s awesome.’”

Sullivan said the process took about two hours at a South Bend, Ind. tattoo parlor. Sullivan didn’t immediately remember how much it cost but quipped, “I know I didn’t trade merchandise and apparel for it.”

Such wise cracks on other college programs like Ohio State – which is banned from a bowl this season because of fallout from a tattoo payola scandal involving eight players – are common from Sullivan and the four other Golden Domers on the Vikings roster now that Notre Dame will be playing for the BCS National Championship on January 7 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

“The nicest part is we can just talk trash to everyone,” a smiling Sullivan said. “The five (Notre Dame) guys we have here, we’re doing our best to be as cocky as possible at how well they’ve played.”

For a while, Sullivan had nothing to brag about. He played in BCS bowl games during his sophomore and junior seasons at Notre Dame, but Sullivan’s senior campaign in 2007 was a disaster. The Fighting Irish finished with the first nine-loss season in the school’s fabled football history. It wasn’t until this season that Notre Dame was back at an elite level.

“I’m really proud of those guys and happy for them,” said Sullivan, who graduated with a marketing degree. “They’ve done an incredible job. People don’t understand the circumstances you have to win under at Notre Dame aren’t always the easiest. There’s a lot of pressure and the academic standards are set higher.

“It’s huge that you’re the No. 1 ranked football team and No. 1 in graduation rate. We take a lot of pride in that as well.”