By Abby Bitterman
After Baker Mayfield shook all the hands of his fellow Heisman winners and said all his thank yous in his acceptance speech, he walked across the stage and picked up his Heisman Trophy. The trophy the senior quarterback hoisted in New York City had traveled just as many miles as he had to be there.
Since 2005, the Heisman Trophy has been made by MTM Recognition, a company located 18.3 miles north of Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Oklahoma City. The company has been around for 46 years and has become one of the nation’s top awards companies. It makes the trophy for Jostens, said Jack Nortz, director of sculpting for MTM Recognition.
In addition to the Heisman, MTM Recognition makes a lot of other awards and trophies for the college football world. It makes several bowl trophies, conference trophies — including the Big 12 Conference Championship trophy the Sooners won on Dec. 2 — and other individual awards, like the John Mackey Award won this year by junior tight end Mark Andrews and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award Lincoln Riley is a finalist for.
The Mackey Award is one that Nortz sculpted himself, and, being a big Sooner fan, he was excited when Andrews won it last week.
“As OU fans we get really excited about them winning,” Nortz said. “We (the Sooners) won the Big 12 Championship, and that’s another one that we do and it was on TV and gave us a lot of notoriety, so that’s cool too.”
As Oklahoma’s sixth Heisman winner, Mayfield gets more than just a trophy to add to his shelf. He will get a statue of himself in Heisman Park alongside the greats that came before him, and it’s possible that MTM Recognition could be involved with that one, too, though no plans have been announced yet.
The first four statues to go up in Heisman Park — Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White — were made as part of Oklahoma’s centennial celebration in 2007. The four statues were commissioned by the Centennial Commission, and the effort was led by Lee Allan Smith, an alumni of the University of Oklahoma and friend of Vessels. Smith led the fundraising effort for the sculptures, which he said can range in cost from $100,000 to $175,000 and were all made by different sculptors from Oklahoma.
It took Jim Franklin of Perry, Oklahoma, about a year and a half to make Billy Sims’ statue. He said the Centennial Commission sent him a photo of Sims taken during a game the year he won the Heisman to be his pose. Franklin found other photos from the time Sims was playing and used them as reference material to help him make an 18-inch maquette — a small scale version of the statue. He made the statue without his helmet on because while Sims was playing football he was known for his big afro, and Franklin said he wanted to show it off.
Franklin presented the model for approval to some people in the Oklahoma Athletic Department, Barry Switzer, Smith and Sims and his wife, he said. There was one comment from Sims and his wife that stuck out to him.
“His wife said ‘well that doesn’t really look like you,” Franklin remembered. “And he says ‘of course it doesn’t look like me because that was back in 1978 and I’ve changed a little bit since 1978.”
After the maquette got approved, Franklin said it was sent to a foundry where it was scanned, and computer programs digitally enlarged it and created a foam base the size of what the statue would be — about 9 feet. The foam base was delivered to Franklin’s studio where he assembled it and then sculpted clay over it to establish all the details and textures. Before he sculpted the clay on, though, he said he painted the foam with a latex paint to make it easier to work with.
Once the clay sculpture was approved, it was sent back to the foundry where a wax replica was made. That wax statue was then encased in a ceramic shell. The wax was melted out and bronze was poured into make the final statue. This process is called the lost-wax bronze process, Franklin said. When it was done, the statue weighed about 500-600 lbs and had to be transported by a flatbed truck.
“It’s one of the greatest honors of my career in sculpting — to have that piece at OU just outside the stadium,” Franklin said.
The process was similar for Jason White’s statue and all the others. The pose, though, is different for every statue. It’s what makes them unique and what immortalizes Oklahoma’s Heisman winners forever in the minds of Sooner Nation.
Sculptor, Jay O’Meilia of Tulsa, said he picked the pose of White — who O’Meilia said he had to force back into his Oklahoma uniform to make sketches of him.
“Being a great long-distance quarterback — he had a great arm on him, and I wanted to show that,” O’Meilia said. “Now he could throw a ball 60 yards down the field, so that’s the pose I wanted because that’s what people knew him for, his great arm strength.”
O’Meilia wanted to make the statue more of a portrait of White, so he asked for approval to make the statue without a helmet on his subject. Of all the Heisman winners, Vessel’s is the only one with a helmet on his statue.
Nortz and MTM Recognition made the most recent addition to the park — Sam Bradford. There was a bit of controversy surrounding the statue when it was first installed in Heisman Park because people were unsure whether it looked like him.
Nortz said he thinks he knows where that sentiment comes from, though. When Bradford was playing at Oklahoma, he would cut his hair short at the start of a season and then let it grow until the end. When he made the maquette, Nortz gave Bradford his longer, curly, end-of-the season hair style, but he said Bradford wanted his statue to have short hair.
Plans for Mayfield’s Heisman Park statue aren’t yet known, but some have already weighed in on what they think his pose should be. Before Mayfield even won the Heisman, a petition had already been started on Change.org for the pose to depict him planting the flag on Ohio State’s field. The petition had 7,446 online signatures as of 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
On an ESPN radio show on Dec. 8, though, Mayfield said he doesn’t think that will get approved. He did have some ideas of his own for what he’d like to see his statue look like.
“You have to have the bandana, that’s a trademark,” Mayfield said on the show. “Maybe a temporary handlebar (mustache) for Bedlam week.”