Each knows of him. Each played a major role in creating his tribute.
For artist W. Stanley “Sandy” Proctor and former South Carolina captain and current Board of Trustees member Chuck Allen, the unveiling of George Rogers’ bronze sculpture on Sept. 12 will be the culmination of hundreds of days of hard work and passion. From Allen’s vision to honor his longtime teammate and Proctor’s dedication to getting every last detail correct, the 13-foot monument will be the centerpiece of South Carolina’s new plaza that surrounds Williams-Brice Stadium.
“It’s very fulfilling, it really is,” said Proctor, who followed Rogers during his career and has created several pieces for other universities. “The piece is not about me at all. It’s about what the university would want.”
“It elevates the whole program, all of Gamecock Nation,” Allen said. “It can help recruiting. It’s very heartwarming to have some role in doing this for a guy I spent all four years with.”
Allen had lobbied for it since 2011. A mural of Rogers and his accomplishments graced the side of Booker T. Washington High near the corner of Blossom and Pickens Streets, but the building was razed to construct USC’s East Quad dormitory. Allen, defensive captain in 1980 when Rogers was offensive captain and won the Heisman Trophy, wanted another permanent honor for his friend.
“I came on the board in 2008, and we were in the midst of all these improvements and this vision that we’re seeing now,” Allen said. “There aren’t many institutions in the country that have Heisman winners, and a lot of them have a statue of the individuals that won it. It was just, ‘Why wouldn’t you do that?’ ”
Approval had to be won, money had to be found. The statue cost $275,000, a gift from former USC cheerleader Patti Shelley, and construction was pushed back until the new plaza and the bronze could be put in together.
With the completion of Springs Brooks Plaza imminent, the sculpture is nearly ready. It will be publicly unveiled at 4 p.m. on Sept. 12, three and a half hours before USC kicks off its home opener.
Proctor will be in Columbia next week for the first phase of installation and is looking forward to the finished product. Also the creator of Bobby Bowden’s monument at Florida State, and Florida’s three Heisman winners at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (including Steve Spurrier), he was honored to receive the bid to create Rogers’ bronze.
“George couldn’t have been nicer,” Proctor said. “It takes a lot of patience to sit there and let somebody measure your neck and wrists and stomach and take a zillion photographs. He’s one of the nicest people I ever worked with. George is just a real credit to the university. I hope I’ve done justice with it, I really do.”
USC called for potential artists and chose Proctor from his resume. Proctor had an idea of Rogers cutting and running, but USC and Rogers had a different idea.
The photo Rogers liked best was him standing on a bench at Williams-Brice in an already-decided game, helmet by his side, watching his teammates. “I don’t want it to be all about me,” Proctor said of Rogers’ words. “I want this picture to be about me being part of a team. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Proctor included the bench in his drawings, added Rogers’ legendary smile and began. He gathered reference materials – Proctor wanted an authentic jersey and pants, pads, shoes, everything from 1980 – and began sculpting.
“I actually started work before the contract was finalized because they wanted it up for this first game. I took a leap of faith and started in December,” Proctor said. “When I start one of these things, I do the body, then we put on the pads and go with the pants, the jersey built around it.”
The bronze is nine feet tall, the bench it stands on six feet long. It will be mounted on a four-foot base with a plaque on each side, honoring Rogers’ accomplishments, the 1980 team and the donors.
Proctor completed the piece in his Tallahassee studio, then prepared it for the foundry. The piece had to be cut into two by two-foot sections, the hands, arms, legs, torso, head etc. going to a foundry in Loveland, Colo., to be molded and then have the bronze poured into the forms.
Once the pieces were created, they were welded together and shipped to Columbia. The piece will be ready by Sept. 12.
The ceremony will feature Allen, Proctor and of course Rogers, who will see a monument of himself near the street that bears his name, looking at the stadium where he had his greatest moments. The “Heisman Plaza” will be a piece of the overall Springs Brooks Plaza, with some space left over.
“It’s very gratifying. The other feature to it that’s very pleasing to me is not only to the honoree, but to recognize something that’s such an achievement,” Allen said. “We saved room for future Heisman winners as well.”
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At closer look at the statue honoring George Rogers:
Location: The “Heisman Plaza” at the Northwest corner of Williams-Brice Stadium, near the intersection of George Rogers Blvd. and Bluff Rd., with him looking at the stadium.
Height: 13 feet. The statue is 9 feet and the base is four feet. The bench that he stands on is 6 feet long.
Weight: 1,400 pounds. The bronze statue is almost 900 pounds, and the bench is 550 pounds because of the stainless steel in it.
Cost: $275,000, paid for with a gift from former USC cheerleader Patti Shelley
Sculptor: Stanley “Sandy” Proctor, from Tallahassee
Statues at SEC schools
SEC schools with statues honoring former players or coaches outside their stadiums:
National-championship-winning coaches Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban
Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton.
Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow
Legendary coach and AD Don Faurot
Winningest coach and former AD Gen. Robert Neyland
Heisman winner John David Crow and E. King Gill, a student and player from the 1920s representative of the 12th man tradition
Note: Arkansas’s Frank Broyles, Georgia’s Vince Dooley and Ole Miss’s Johnny Vaught are honored with statues at other areas on their campuses.