Two vibrant sleeves of ink will greet you long before Jonny Steele can say “hello.”
Much like teammate Tim Cahill, the New York Red Bulls’ latest midfield acquisition chronicles his life in the form of tattoos. If those arms could speak, they would reveal a history that is as colorful as the man himself.
“Too many meanings, man,” Steele tells EoS. “Just life. Experiences in general, family, God, my son. You just keep going and keep growing.”
At 27 years of age, the Northern Ireland footballer has certainly lived a lifetime within his young years. Since 2004, Steele has been a journeyman of the U.S. Soccer pyramid in every sense of the word. His travels have brought him coast to coast, through the indoor and outdoor game and eventually to the top of the pyramid itself.
Over nine years, he has played for a total of 14 teams. Is it any wonder he needs two sleeves to tell his tale?
“Every tattoo has a meaning and story lines behind them,” he explained. “The religious ones are for God and all the family ones and friends that have passed away. They have to have a meaning for me.”
His latest “storyline” – an unexpected journey to the Red Bulls – even caught him by surprise.
“I wasn’t going back to Salt Lake because we couldn’t agree to a salary and what my option years may be, so I was back in Ireland,” he recounts. “I was thinking of going to play in the lower leagues of England.”
That thought didn’t last very long. “I got a phone call from Mike (Petke) actually about two in the morning on Friday morning in Ireland time. He said I would like you to come down to the club. I just wanted to be a part of it and give it another shot.
“I think he knew what he was going to get from me,” Steele continued. “He spoke to the coaches in Salt Lake and he knows first and foremost I am going to give 100%. I am a hard working guy. I know the league as I know what it takes in America to travel and stuff like that and I think he wants some of those guys about that are willing to put their bodies on the line.”
In his initial appearances with the team, he has provided just that. Steele was a dynamic presence on the left wing for the Red Bulls against DC United, creating opportunities for the forwards while maintaining his defensive responsibilities. He, along with fellow newcomer Eric Alexander, helped widen the pitch and contributed mightily to New York’s dominating performance.
All in all, it has been an inspired start for Steele – one that he never envisioned happening in the first place. “Football is football,” he said, “and it’s full of surprises.”
Is it enough for him to chronicle in the form of another tat? Not just yet. “There will be nothing coming before (the journey’s over),” he said. “It’s not like I am going to get a dolphin on my leg or something like that.”