Just over a month after signing to play football at Notre Dame, Joe Wilkins, Jr. sat in one chair at a tattoo parlor with his mother, Kristy Woodley, at another getting “I am because you are” emblazoned across their rib cage.
It was 5:30 in the evening on Jan. 22, exactly 18 years to the minute after Wilkins was born. Those matching tattoos were meant to symbolize the bond of a mother and son strengthened by unspeakable tragedy.
Wilkins would never know his father and namesake because on June 8, 1999, more than seven months before he was born, Wilkins, Sr. was murdered outside of a Chinese restaurant by a long-time friend after a running dispute. Wilkins, Sr. would have been 40 on Feb. 13, and Mike Vorel of the South Bend Tribune told the remarkable story about the family he never knew he’d be leaving behind on Sunday.
The writing is almost as incredible as the story itself and we’d highly recommend you check the entire piece out to get to know the 3-star cornerback from North Fort Myers and the love that helped lead him to one of the most prestigious football programs and universities in the nation. And it will give you a glimpse into what will continue to drive Wilkins, Jr. in South Bend, too.
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