Eagle wears his inspiration on his sleeve

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jeff Maehl's tattoo in memory of his late friend can be seen in this photo from Tampa game.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jeff Maehl's tattoo in memory of his late friend can be seen in this photo from Tampa game.
Posted: October 20, 2013

TATTOOS ARE commonplace in sports. Everywhere one turns, there is ink on athletes' bodies. From basketball to baseball to football, athletes are tatted up. Most of them have some meaning. Some have a deeper meaning.

Eagles wide receiver Jeff Maehl (pronounced "mail")has a large tattoo on his left arm that is one of those.

Todd Doxey was a redshirt freshman safety at Oregon when Maehl was a freshman there. They were roommates, teammates and close friends. One day in mid-July 2008, they decided to get a group together and go tubing on the McKenzie River, about 7 miles from the Oregon campus in Eugene.

"We went to the river one day as a group," said Maehl, who is from Paradise, Calif., north of Sacramento. "There were probably 30 or 40 student-athletes. We were just going to float down the river and have a good ol' time like we have done before.

"A couple of us jumped off the bridge before. [Todd] was one of the last to go and coming down he got caught up in a current. He couldn't stop drifting down and ended up drowning."

Doxey's teammates were too far downriver to do anything about it. According to Lane County Sheriff's reports, a boat picked up Doxey and he was transported to McKenzie-Willamette Hospital. He was pronounced dead about 5 hours later.

The tragedy shook Maehl, who was just 19. He decided to never let himself forget that moment.

"That's what inspired the tattoo," Maehl said. "He was one of my closest friends that first year at Oregon. He meant a lot to me."

The tattoo is very simple. "In loving memory of Todd Lamar Doxey," it reads, with his birthday and the day he passed away.

The tattoo is there not only to remind Maehl of his dear friend, but to remind him what he stood for.

"He was a really hard worker," Maehl said. "He was a great athlete. He would have had a really good chance to play in the NFL, too."

Doxey graduated from Hoover High in San Diego, and immediately drew interest from college programs. He decided on Oregon, where he had a promising future. Mahel is using the future that Doxey once had to inspire his own career.

"It just inspired me to take all the blessings that I have in life and work as hard and not waste any of it," Maehl said. "I know that he wouldn't have [wasted his blessing]." He also is reminded of how suddenly life can end.

Maehl certainly has worked hard to get in the position he is in. He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL draft, but was signed by the Texans to their practice squad. He appeared in three games in 2011, but primarily spent his 2 years with Houston on the practice squad.

When Chip Kelly became the coach of the Eagles, a new opportunity was presented to Maehl. Late in training camp, the Birds traded offensive tackle Nate Menkin for Maehl, and he was reunited with his college coach.

He has caught three passes for 48 yards, including a touchdown against Denver. When he caught that touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter from Nick Foles, he tapped his ribs and pointed up to the sky, a tribute to Doxey.

Maehl believes that the sorrow he felt in 2008 has helped him work to where he is now. It taught him a lesson early in life that he will never forget.

"You can't take life for granted," Maehl said. "This opportunity that all of us have right now is something that a lot of people wish they could have. I'm just trying to go out there and work as hard as I can."

Every time Maehl looks down to catch or secure a football, he can see the ink on his arm. He is reminded of how hard his friend worked, and wants to work just as hard. Every time he scores a touchdown and points to the sky, he is reminded to take nothing for granted. Everything has a deeper meaning for Maehl.

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