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Collection of 700-pound silver statues return 'home' for big game

In just three seasons, they have become iconic symbols of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

They are six glistening silver football-player statues made of styrofoam, five linemen and a quarterback, each the size of a small automobile, standing anywhere from 10 to 18 feet tall, weighing up to 700 pounds.

Thousands of fans will seek them out, posing for photographs that are destined for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram display.

"They are impressive-looking,'' said Greg Evans of Toronto, who photographed his 9-year-old son Jack by two of the linemen when they were put in place on Tuesday. "They are awesome.''

And now they are "home,'' just in time for the weekend of events leading into Monday night's CFP title game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers. You will find three at Playoff Fan Central at the Tampa Convention Center, two on the concourse outside Amalie Arena and one at the Florida Aquarium.

Clearwater-based Foam by Design was hired in 2013 to produce the statues for the CFP, which was searching for some visually pleasing football-related props that could travel to its game site each season.

The Colonnade Group, an event management firm that works with the CFP, contacted Foam by Design, primarily a firm that manufactures styrofoam products for homes and businesses, to plan the concept.

"We were still toying around with whether we wanted to do this, but once we had the concept and I saw the drawings, I said, 'We absolutely have to have them,' '' said Laila Brock, the CFP's director of operations and logistics. "We're still a young event, but I think the people who have come every year, they look for them. Now that the game is getting closer, it's great to have 'The Boys' back in town.''

The Boys.

That's the term used by CFP staffers to describe the gigantic statues. Brock has joked that she will give them all nicknames because they are part of the CFP family.

"I'm sure they could tell some great stories,'' Brock said.

At Arlington, Texas in 2014, they served as the entrance to Playoff Fan Central. At Glendale, Ariz., in 2015, they were on stage at the AT&T Playoff Playlist Live, serving as the backdrop for performers such as John Mellencamp.

Now they are back home.

"We're excited to see them again,'' said Miguel Gransaull, general manager of Foam by Design. "They were our babies. Now the College Football Playoff has full custody. We're glad to see them doing well.''

Foam by Design began 14 years ago with a three-person crew. Now there are 60 employees. Primarily, they design and manufacture architectural styrofoam products for homes and businesses, mostly columns and molding. But they also produce three-dimensional speciality items, sometimes for parties, events or a child's room.

The firm was hired by the Green Bay Packers to produce a 75-foot Lombardi Trophy and a giant Packers helmet, about 8 feet in diameter, that are displayed at the franchise's Hall of Fame adjacent to Lambeau Field. It also manufactured the stacked "L-O-V-E'' letters that are displayed around Philadelphia (the "City of Brotherly Love'').

But the CFP statues became the firm's most challenging and high-profile job.

Gransaull said the firm's artists and designers studied photos of football players to determine the statues' basic positioning and shapes. From a three-dimensional drawing, it was then taken apart and methodically built, section by section.

Machines provided a bulk of the heavy work to get the styrofoam foundation in place. Artists did everything else by hand, carving the muscles, jerseys, numbers and the overall look, which is generic and not based on any particular players.

Gransaull said the statues will last for decades. The styrofoam won't deteriorate. With a plastic coating and automobile paint, the finish is well-protected. If there's ever a dent, it can be fixed like body work on a car. Through most of the year, the statues are housed in a Texas storage facility.

"I think they could basically be around forever,'' Gransaull said.

Shortly after the completion of the Alabama-Clemson game, the statues will be loaded on a tractor trailer and returned to Texas before they emerge again for the 2018 CFP title game in Atlanta.

"We are really proud of them,'' Gransaull said. "Everybody notices them. They say, 'Oh my gosh, look how big those are!' And they want pictures, always. I'm sure the pictures have been all over the world. It's rewarding for us to have produced something so long-lasting and recognizable.''

The CFP, too, has been pleased with the reaction.

"They are a very popular part of everyone's social media during the game weekend,'' Brock said. "They are so grand, so larger than life. I'm still in awe of them. They have become exactly what we had in mind — and so much more. If you come to our event, 'The Boys' will be there to greet you.''

Contact Joey Johnston at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

OF THE

Collection of 700-pound silver statues return 'home' for big game 01/05/17 [Last modified: Friday, January 6, 2017 5:54pm]
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