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The fan with the Dragons tattoo

Matt Pioli has what is believed to be the first Seattle Dragons tattoo.

MONROE, Wa. – Matt Pioli walked into the Timeless Tattoo shop wearing a Seattle Dragons zip-up hoodie. He was at the shop to show off the latest design artist Tori Brewer had inked into his forearm.

When he removed the gray sweatshirt, he revealed the Seattle skyline with the Dragons logo in the background surrounded by dark, ominous clouds.

The tattoo, a recent addition to Pioli’s arm sleeve, is a tribute to Dragons coach Jim Zorn. Pioli decided to get the tattoo on his way back from the team’s second home game on Feb. 22 and, as far as anyone in the organization knows, it is the first team tattoo in existence.

For Pioli, the design was decades in the making. To understand why Pioli got the tattoo, requires a story from 1976.

Pioli was 13 years old at the time. The Seahawks were an expansion team. Zorn was the team’s quarterback.

There was a sports awards banquet at Mariner High School in the Mukilteo School District. Zorn was the guest speaker and two of Pioli’s sisters, Angela and Sandy, were at the event.

“He was the new guy in town and he was saying he thought it was a dinner banquet and he hadn’t eaten,” Pioli said. “He was hungry, so my sisters invited him over for an Italian dinner at my family’s house.”

Zorn accepted the invitation, but was pulled away by reporters for an interview at the Holiday Inn instead. But, before he left the event, he wrote down the family’s phone number. The quarterback said he would make arrangements to come over one day for dinner.

The family wasn’t sure if the new star in town would ever call. He did.

“Sure enough, about a week later, he called,” Pioli said.

Zorn pulled up to the family home in his yellow Volkswagen Beetle at about 2 p.m. on a Sunday. He spent the afternoon with the family. He stayed for dinner. He even went with Pioli’s father, Albert, to league night at the bowling alley.

“My dad got to show off the new guy in town, Jim Zorn,” Pioli said. “It was one my dad’s proudest days. He is a legend in our family because of that. We’ve told that story a million times. It was cool.”

Albert died 1 ½ years ago, but even in the final days of his life, he looked back fondly on that story.

“It was just the coolest thing in the world,” Pioli said.

With that memory a part of his family’s story, when Pioli heard the XFL was coming to town and Zorn would be the coach and general manager, he bought tickets the first week.

“We’re not going to miss this for anything,” Pioli told his wife, Ginger, when he heard the news.

After two home games, Pioli has been so impressed by the XFL he had no reservations about getting the tattoo.

“It’s a different atmosphere at the XFL games,” Pioli said. “It seems to me like everyone is friendly, happy, having a good time. You don’t hear any conflict, see any conflict. I think the unity of the XFL is super cool.

“And, I’ve got an awesome tattoo of a killer-looking dragon looking over the city, protecting us.”

Pioli has held onto his experience with Zorn his whole life and now, he is a “Dragons fan forever.”