Auburn grad pays tribute to Toomer’s Oaks with giant back tattoo

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2002 Auburn grad Giancarlo Guida recently turned his back on Auburn.

As the final rolling of the Toomer’s oaks approaches, Auburn fans are reflecting on the special times at Toomer’s Corner etched in their memories.

And, in the case of Auburn University graduate Giancarlo Guida, his skin.

Guida, a 2002 graduate in geography (and rugby), recently immortalized the Toomer’s oaks with a mural tattooed on his back.

The massive tattoo features a scene with Samford Hall, one of the Toomer’s oak in its final bloom, the eagle statue that until 2011 stood in front of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and a rugby ball resting against the oak.

It took more than 12 hours, two sessions of six hours, for Matt Strauser of Rubicon Tattoo in Atlanta to finish the piece.

For Guida, it was worth the wait as each piece of the puzzle has a special meaning to his Auburn experience.

The Toomer’s oak begins in the middle of his back, from neck to waist, and is draped in flowing toilet paper towards his left side, with traces of blooms on each branch.

“I thought that was a great way to capture the trees after that asshole killed them,” Guida said in reference to Harvey Updyke, who recently pleaded guilty to the poisoning.

While many fraternity and sorority members ink their organization’s letters on their bodies, Guida added a rugby ball to the mural because, “Rugby was my fraternity.”

Guida, 33, played for the Tigers from 1998-2002, helping the team capture the 1999 SEC Championship, the last AU rugby team to do so.

The eagle statue reaches up to his left shoulder, a reminder of what Guida accomplished during his time at Auburn.

“It’s the first thing I saw once I graduated, waddling out of the Coliseum,” he said. “It reminds me that I did it, I actually graduated from the university.”

As for Samford Hall, “That’s my favorite place in the world,” Guida said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’ve told my wife that when I die, I want my ashes spread there.”

The time shown on the Samford Hall clock tower is also significant: 2:35 a.m

It was at 2:35 on an early Auburn morn after a late night on the town when Guida crossed off “a bucket list item” on the lawn of Samford Hall.

No doubt, Guida’s love for Samford Hall, and its lawn, runs deep.

But not all are as passionate and proud of his new body art.

His father, Thomas, was not receptive to Guida’s first tattoo more than 15 years ago, and has yet to find out about the newest addition.

“My dad will frickin’ die,” Guida said. “But he’s got to find out somehow.”

Guida said Joi, his wife of seven years, was at first receptive to the idea and even encouraged it.

That changed when she saw it.

“She thought it was going to be a lot smaller than that,” Guide said of the half-back tattoo. “She was not happy at all.”

But Guida figures his wife wouldn’t have been completely satisfied with the result regardless of the size—she is a 1992 graduate of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

“She’s just glad it’s on my back,” Guida said. “But the joke’s on her because it is the last thing she has to see when I walk away.”

While the breathtaking tattoo may be surprising to some, it is not a shock to those who know Guida well.

The Sicilian-blooded, Brooklyn-born, Marietta, Ga.-raised, rugby-playing, Harley-selling Auburn man pulls no punches about his allegiance to the Tigers, his heritage and his family.

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The Guidas.

In addition to the Auburn mural, Guida has a tattoo in the outline of Italy on his buttocks that “most all of campus saw during 1998,” an Atari joystick in an undisclosed location, a ritualistic Māori hand-tapped rugby tattoo on his calf “that hurt like hell,” the Sicilian trinacria (three-legged image on the flag) on his upper back and a family mural around his left arm.

The family mural includes a 1947 Harley Davidson motorcycle—he’s currently employed by Harvey Davidson in Newnan, Ga.—to symbolize his grandfather’s ride in World War II. There’s also a cherub angel with a sword, which also serves as the ace of spades in cards in Sicily. Guida and his grandfather often played cards together.

The Brooklyn Bridge represents where he was raised; four pink cherry blossoms represent his two stepchildren, Raquel, 17; Danielle, 16; and his two children, Isabella, 7; and Gianna, 5. There are also two unblossomed blooms symbolizing the twins he and his wife miscarried early in their marriage.

While Guida knows his tattoos will bring attention, he’s not worried about the negative attention the  body art could bring from opposing fans.

“I’m not worried at all,” Guida said. “Let them have at it.

“This isn’t like a Sons of Satan tattoo… Satan?… Saban? It’s Saban, right? Mine is a little more original than that. I’m an Auburn alumnus, not some redneck fan that never even went to that school. There’s a big difference.

“Mine is for my love of Auburn.”

 

Austin Phillips is an Auburn University journalism instructor and editorial adviser to The Auburn Plainsman. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @ScoopPhillips.

Related: More Toomer’s Oaks tattoo.

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