For many Baltimore Ravens fans, the 2021 season was one to forget.
For Nic Cullison, the Ravens’ last-place finish will forever be etched in his memory -- and on his right leg.
Throughout 2021, Cullison commemorated every Ravens victory with a tattoo immediately after Baltimore won. When injuries finally curtailed the Ravens’ promising season, their fan base vented its frustration and turned its attention to 2022. Cullison, however, was left with ink on his right thigh from an 8-9 season, the Ravens’ worst in six years.
The question that Cullison frequently gets asked is: Do you regret it?
"Honestly, no,” Cullison said. "This season, yes, it’s one we really don’t want to remember. But it was one of the most spectacular first halves of a season (after losing their opener, the Ravens won six of their next seven), if you actually break it down. This is a season I would remember.”
A native of Joppatowne, Maryland, Cullison is on active duty for the Navy in Oklahoma, where he lives with his wife, Naomi, and their 3-year-old daughter, Raelyn. His love of sports and ink converged five years ago, when he proposed to Naomi in the dugout of Camden Yards, and they got matching tattoos.
In September, Cullison took his tattoo game to another level. Shortly before the Ravens’ Week 2 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he told Naomi that he would get the score tattooed on him if Baltimore finally beat Kansas City. Then, 10 minutes after the Ravens’ 36-35 comeback victory, Naomi -- who's not a professional tattoo artist, but an aesthetician -- got the tattoo gun she had purchased a couple of months before and started inking above his right knee.
Cullison never stopped from there, getting eight total tattoos from wins over the Lions (a picture of a crossbar with Justin Tucker’s record 66-yard field goal), the Chargers (“Bolt Down 6-34”), and the Vikings (“Let’s Skol Ravens”). This isn’t a one-season fad. Cullison is all-in. He will continue to get tattoos of Ravens wins in 2022 and possibly beyond.
"I’m a man of my word,” Cullison said. "I said I’m not going to stop until there’s a Lombardi. We’re committed now.”
No one can question Cullison’s commitment, especially after Baltimore’s Week 4 game in Denver. Naomi was going to visit her twin sister in Seattle before that game, which meant she wouldn’t be able to continue the tradition of inking the tattoo right after a win.
So, Naomi put the Denver tattoo on her husband before leaving and not knowing whether the Ravens would win. They took a pic of what has become Cullison’s favorite tattoo, along with a cell phone displaying the date, to show it was placed on Cullison’s leg five days prior to kickoff.
"Watching a game with a tattoo of a win on your leg is very nerve-racking,” Cullison said. "It was terrifying. I had to go to work right after and I was sweating. Please win!”
The Ravens pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 23-7 win over the Broncos. Despite the margin of victory, there was still plenty of anxiety for Naomi, who was in an area where the game wasn’t being broadcast on TV. She followed along while running errands with her sister, looking at the play-by-play on her phone and exchanging texts with Nic.
"Then, we won,” Naomi recounted. "OK, now I can breathe.”
A couple of months later, Nic and Naomi flew out to Baltimore to watch the Ravens’ 16-10 win over the Browns on Nov. 28. Baltimore was 8-3 at that point and sat on top of the AFC.
Cullison thought there was a possibility that he was documenting a Super Bowl season. But the Ravens wouldn’t win again. Baltimore lost its last six games and finished in last place for the first time in coach John Harbaugh’s 14 seasons.
"Obviously, he was disappointed,” Naomi said. "Nic is a man of very little regrets. This whole experience was just a really good memory between him and me personally.”
Naomi would like to get into the medical side of tattooing, which would involve permanent makeup. Does she think Nic will follow through and get tattoos next season?
“Absolutely,” said Naomi, who is expecting their second child in June. "And I’m going to be a lot better because I’ve been practicing."