Baker Mayfield tattoos represent more than just the quarterback for Browns fans

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The coolers had just been opened. Lifelong Browns fan Mark Gurko wanted a way to remember the moment.

Like most Cleveland fans, Gurko, a northeast Ohio native, watched at a bar with his friends as Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield made a dazzling NFL debut in Week 3 of the 2018 season. A rookie, Mayfield came off the bench during that Thursday night game against the Jets after Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion and led Cleveland to a 21-17 comeback victory. The win was the Browns’ first since Dec. 24, 2016, and opened the famed locked beer coolers all across the city.

One of the most memorable moments in the game came during the third quarter.

After leading the Browns on a seven-play, 69-yard touchdown drive to pull within two points, Mayfield caught a 2-point conversion pass from receiver Jarvis Landry. The quarterback lingered along the line of scrimmage, pretending to call out protections as the ball was snapped directly to Duke Johnson, who threw a lateral to Landry. Mayfield drifted into the end zone and the receiver lobbed the ball to him for the score.

After nearly two years of straight losses, Gurko, now 43, was half expecting the Browns to blow the late lead, and finally exhaled when there was six seconds remaining.

“I said out loud,‘ Oh my God, are we going to win? ’” Gurko recalled in a phone interview. “And then we all just erupted. It was just such a magical moment almost for lack of a better word. We were ecstatic. We were hugging, high-fiving people I didn’t know, people I did know. It was just such an amazing moment. ”

The next morning, Gurko woke up still a little tired, but feeling that same energy, excitement and anticipation that hadn’t existed with fans for quite some time.

With one game, Mayfield changed the despondency that hung over the Browns and FirstEnergy Stadium from the previous two years. There was a reason to be excited and Gurko, who thought it a pivotal moment for the franchise, wanted to remember it in a unique way.

“Being a fan at that point felt different,” he said. “It just felt like something beautiful is going to happen. And so I just thought, how could I capture this moment? In life, it’s like, you make big-time memories and sometimes you want to capture them. And I just thought, wouldn’t it be cool to get a tattoo to remember this moment? ”

That morning, he drove to the tattoo studio and re-watched the play a handful of times with his tattoo artist. The two came up with an Xs and Os design of the 2-point conversion catch, the “Baker Special,” that went on Gurko’s arm, and which also features a loving symbolic jab of the linemen purposely turned the wrong away due to the dysfunction of the team over the previous 20 years.

“I have other tattoos,” he said. “And they all symbolize pivotal moments in my life or very substantial memories that I wanted to capture. And I wanted to capture that. ”

Over the years, as Mayfield’s career proved to be an up-and-down rollercoaster, Gurko has never regretted getting the tattoo, which evokes more of a feeling than an individual athlete. He had no regrets this season as Mayfield struggled after injuring his left shoulder and the Browns failed to reach the playoffs. He still has no regrets this week, after Mayfield was traded to the Panthers for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick. If he wins Carolina’s starting job, he will face the Browns in Week 1 of the season.

“I love the grittiness, the moxie he brings, those are intangibles that you can’t teach,” Gurko said. “Things you just have, or you don’t. However, being a fan of this sport in general, not just the Browns, you can kind of break down his gameplay and say, look, there are some deficiencies, there are some things that he needs to work on.

“I wish him well, I would hope that he does well in Carolina, I’m still rooting for him, except for Game 1 this year, obviously.”

Gurko isn’t alone, both in having a Mayfield tattoo and not regretting getting one, even with the Mayfield era over in Cleveland.

Zach Efaw’s Baker Mayfield tattoo made the rounds on Twitter after Mayfield was traded this weekZach Efaw

On Thursday after the trade, Zach Efaw took to Twitter and shared a photo of his own Mayfield tattoo on his armone that features the quarterback in his gameday uniform – brown with an orange 6 on the jersey – and helmet.

Efaw tweeted the photo at ESPN Cleveland after listening to a discussion on that morning’s radio show about people with Mayfield tattoos and those who have named their pets – and even children – after the quarterback.

Efaw’s picture quickly made the round on Browns Twitter, garnering nearly 200 retweets and over 1,000 likes.

“I wrote in and did not expect it to blow up the way it did,” Efaw said.

Mayfield is just a part of a larger and in-progress tattoo sleeve that Efaw has started on his arm. He also has the Browns’ logo and Brownie Elf mascot, and is hoping to soon add some Guardians imagery as well as the Cleveland skyline.

Like Gurko, Efaw’s tattoo is in many ways about a feeling, he says.

As a lifelong Browns fan, Efaw (who hails from Mount Vernon but now lives outside of Springfield, Mo.) was only about 6 years old when the Browns moved to Baltimore ahead of the 1996 season. By the time they returned in 1999, he was all in.

“The Browns were playing the Saints, Tim Couch had that Hail Mary pass to Kevin Johnson,” he said, “and from that moment on I was hooked.”

When rumors began circulating in 2018 that the Browns were going to draft Mayfield, Efaw was excited. He was even more excited when it actually came to fruition, and beating the Jets in 2018 only validated that excitement.

But by the time the Browns made the playoffs in 2020, Efaw was ready to commemorate it forever and decided to finally move forward with getting a tattoo after thinking about numerous Cleveland ideas over the years.

“He kind of breathed new life into us,” he said. “I think we can all say we felt that way.”

Tattoo on arm of Baker Mayfield dressed in Brownie Elf costume throwing a football.

Lifelong Browns fan got this Baker Mayfield tattoo, which also alludes to the film “Top Gun” in 2019.Drew Champa

For Drew Champa, it was also a years-long process to getting his Mayfield tattoo, one that has only become more and more relevant this year.

The tattoo not only features Mayfield with his signature headband, clad in the Brownie Elf outfit, but also has “DAN6ER ZONE” written in the Top Gun font, planes flying in the background.

“It’s crazy that movie (Top Gun: Maverick) just comes out and he gets traded, ”Champa said.

The 40 year old from the Wickliffe area is a self-described Browns super fan. As a kid, the Browns were all he cared about, and to this day, he can still tell you just about any player’s number from the teams he grew up watching (Center Mike Babb who was with Cleveland from 1982-87 and again from 90 -91 wore number 61 in Cleveland, he points out to prove his point).

Champa already had numerous Browns tattoos before he got his Mayfield one, including one of Bernie Kosar.

“As the years had been going by I always told myself if we got a quarterback that would get us to the next level, I would consider getting another one,” he said.

When the Browns played at Denver in the 2018 season during Mayfield’s rookie year, Champa made the trip. When he was tailgating, by chance he happened to run into Mayfield’s then-fiancee, Emily, and mentioned that if the Browns won, he would consider getting a tattoo of the quarterback.

Cleveland was out a 17-16 victory with Mayfield throwing for two touchdowns and one interception, so Champa began thinking about what design he wanted, and just over a month later, made it official.

Three and a half years ago, when Champa got that tattoo completed, it was impossible to predict exactly how Mayfield’s Browns career would have ended. But for all three men, there are really no regrets about choosing to memorialize the quarterback’s tenure.

“Looking back over the last 20 years, he’s definitely the best quarterback we’ve had since Bernie Kosar and he got us our first playoff win (in 18 years),” Champa said. “It’s not something where I’m going to go and get a tattoo removed. I haven’t thought about anything like that. ”

A Baker mayfield tattoo inspired by

Drew Champa’s Baker Mayfield Tattoo features a “Top Gun” theme with “DAN6ER ZONE” included in the movie’s font.Drew Champa

In the days since sharing his tattoo with Twitter, Efaw has heard unsolicited advice from all corners of the internet, with some suggesting he change the Browns jersey to one with Carolina blue.

For now, that’s not a change he’s willing to make. Mayfield has earned that spot, and he plans to root for the quarterback as long as the Panthers aren’t playing the Browns.

“It’s kind of in the middle whether I regret it or not,” Efaw said. “But it’s a piece of history. He did help change our franchise for the better whether he was consistent enough or not, he had his good years, had his bad years. But all in all, I think he helped change the culture and we’re better for it. I wish him all the best in Carolina and hopefully he does well. In Week 1 I will not be rooting for him, though. ”

Over the last few years, Gurko’s tattoo has aged particularly well. It doesn’t contain Mayfield’s likeness, but it does capture his essence. A moment in time that has been highlighted repeatedly during the last week, as numerous retrospectives have been written on Mayfield’s Cleveland career.

For Gurko, the tattoo was always about more than Mayfield. It was also about ending two years of losing, and capturing a moment in time forever that the quarterback provided.

“Someday I’m going to be 80 years old – hopefully I live that long – and it’s going to be a black, inky blotch on my arm,” Gurko said. “But I’m going to be able to look at that and it’ll take me back. I’ll remember the night. I’ll get goosebumps. It’ll bring a smile to my face. So do I regret it? Absolutely not. It’s a moment in history that I’ll forever cherish, both for the team and also for him.

“Because listen, regardless of what happens in the future with him, regardless of what has happened in the past, you have to give him credit for for bringing a change to the culture of the Browns. Other things happen, obviously, you know, [Myles] Garrett and Jarvis coming in, I mean, there were things that helped change the culture. But he was a big part of that. And as a fan, I would hope all fans can appreciate what he did. ”

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