Every Tattoo Has Meaning

It's hard for Mike Rosario to count the time he has spent having tattoos plastered on his body. Separate sessions of at least four hours have produced the ink that tells part of who he is. Every tattoo on Rosario's body is memorable to him. Whether it's a memory of his hometown or honoring members of his family that have passed away, Rosario's life story is told through the art on his body.

"I get every tattoo on me that means something to me," Mike Rosario said. "I don't just put anything on my body."

The onslaught of tattoos began with a purpose. Rosario knew he wanted to get multiple tattoos, but the only hurdle was his mother. She wasn't sold on the idea of multiples tattoos, but instead of trying to convince her, Rosario went a different route.

The first tattoo her got is still easily noticeable on his left arm, which reads "Joanne," his mother's name.

"She was a little pissed off about it, but since it was her name, she gave me that," Rosario said with a laugh. ""I had to because I knew I was going to get more than one, so I knew I had to get her name first."

With the first tattoo out of the way, Rosario set his sights to any artwork that described who he was. His most memorable tattoo also happens to be the biggest. On his left bicep is a sketch drawing of Rosario from the waist up with his old neighborhood behind him.

It has since been torn down because the city wanted to build townhomes over it, but the drawing on his bicep is a constant reminder of where he has come from.

"It's not really a bad place, but a tough place to live in," he said.

Even the details tell stories. On his left hand is the number "354," representing three important dates. His grandfather passed away on the third day of a month, while his grandmother passed away on the 5th and his uncle just recently passed away on the 4th day of a month.

There are simpler pieces, such as "201" to represent his area code or a gun located at the base of his thumb on his right hand.

"That's my shooting hand," he said.

The most painful tattoo was actually his mother's idea. Rosario has the serenity prayer tattooed across his chest. His mother gave him a piece of paper with it written on it before he transferred to Florida. That paper has been in his wallet since Rosario moved to Gainesville.

After deciding to transfer and play for the Gators, Rosario got "I'm a Gator where it's greater" tattooed on the inside of his right elbow.

His next plan will come after basketball season ends. Rosario is already drawing up the possibility of putting his family tree strapped on his back. He'll wait until he goes home for that one, when he can make it to Keyport, N.J., where his most trusted tattoo artist, Vinnie, can do the work.

"I'm not done yet," Rosario said with a laugh.

After being forced to sit out last season, the redshirt junior's personality never waivered. Rosario is an upbeat, emotional person whether he's on the court or off it. That couldn't have been more evident than during games last season.

Rosario sat in track pants and a Gators collared shirt on the bench before the game, but once the ball was tipped, seeing him sit down was rare.

"There were times when I was so sweaty from jumping around, but I knew it was for the better to help my team and be positive," Rosario said. "I just wanted to show my fans and the Gator fans that no matter what decision you make, it's not the end of the world. I went through my ups and downs, but I told myself I was going to be the best cheerleader."

For Rosario, that negative decision he made was to attend Rutgers. It wasn't because from a lack of individual success. Rosario was named a freshman All-American in 2008-09 and set the Rutgers freshman all-time scoring mark with 517 points. He led the team with 16.2 points per game that season and was fifth in freshman scoring in the country.

His sophomore season saw more of an increase. Rosario became the second sophomore in Rutgers history to cross the 1,000-point plateau. He averaged 16.7 points and had nine games where he scored 20 or more points.

After all that success, Rosario chose to leave. The former McDonald's All-American began his search for a winning program and found the perfect fit in Gainesville.

As he steps onto the court this season, he won't be leaned on to score all the time. Rosario will have plenty of help in the backcourt and won't be forced to carry the load.

"It feels good because my first two years in college weren't so good," Rosario said. "For me to step into this atmosphere and what we're going to be playing against, it's a great experience. I want to play against the best of the best. That's why I came to this school and surrounded myself around the players I'm around now to get better every day.

"Even though I made a decision that set me back, I had to take one step back to take two steps forward."

Despite the records Rosario broke at Rutgers, there is still plenty of room for his game to grow. He chose to stay close to home and attempt to bring the Rutgers program to the top of college basketball. After it didn't work, the Gators accepted his wish to transfer to Gainesville.

That doesn't mean the Florida staff hasn't found room for Rosario to improve.

"There's a reason he's no longer at Rutgers," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "It didn't work out. There's a lot of room he needs to grow as a person and a player. If it was going really well for him with all the minutes he was getting at Rutgers, he would've stayed there. There are things he has to get better as a player. Part of that is just being a guy every day who comes to work. Sometimes, he can emotionally be up and down. He has to be more consistent in that fashion."

The Gators haven't had trouble scoring from the backcourt in recent years, and it won't be an issue this season. Between Gatorade National Player of the Year Brad Beal and Rosario, the Florida backcourt adds two dynamic scorers to returners Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton.

The guards can't point to a player that is the clear cut best shooter on the team, but Rosario has made his case so far this offseason.

"If he's open, I pretty much think it's going in every time," Walker said. He fits in well with us and the Billy Donovan style of offense."

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