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The story behind the statue of Lee Roy Selmon and his brothers at Oklahoma

“Their story is awe-inspiring,” sculptor Chad Fisher said. “I think all of us could learn something from them, because I certainly did.”
Lee Roy Selmon, left, and his brother, Dewey played for the Bucs and at Oklahoma. They're being honored by the Sooners with a statue to be unveiled this weekend.
Lee Roy Selmon, left, and his brother, Dewey played for the Bucs and at Oklahoma. They're being honored by the Sooners with a statue to be unveiled this weekend. [ TAMPA TRIBUNE | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sep. 23

Chad Fisher is choosy about the art projects he pursues. The Connecticut-based sculptor doesn’t want to do something that won’t inspire or educate his four children or anyone else.

Creating 10-foot statues of Tampa Bay legend Lee Roy Selmon and brothers Lucious and Dewey for the University of Oklahoma? That was an easy call.

“Their story is awe-inspiring,” Fisher said Friday, a day before the Sooners unveil his piece outside Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. “I think all of us could learn something from them, because I certainly did.”

The Selmons came from a family of sharecroppers in Oklahoma before starring on the Sooners’ defense. Lee Roy became a Hall of Famer with the Bucs, then helped bring football to USF. Dewey also spent six years with the Buccaneers.

Beyond their on-field impact, their kindness resonated. Fisher saw it when he talked with Lucious and Dewey early in the process. He couldn’t meet with Lee Roy, who died in 2011, but his widow, Claybra, visited him in his studio.

Fisher asked Claybra to write something for the project, so she wrote their initials, with a heart between them. Fisher put it on the piece, just behind Lee Roy’s left leg.

The poses were chosen carefully. Lucious, the oldest, is in the middle looking directly ahead. Dewey leans forward slightly to emphasize his work ethic and activity on the field and in the community.

Lee Roy — a gentle giant who loved children — looks relaxed, with his gaze tilting up slightly.

“I think there was an opportunity to look beyond what’s present and look slightly toward the heavens,” said Fisher, 39. “I didn’t want to hit it with a hammer, but the possibility of looking toward the sky slightly, I thought, was trying to connect that spiritually.”

The late Lee Roy Selmon, seen here with his son, Lee Roy Selmon Jr., made a major impact on USF and the entire Tampa Bay region.
The late Lee Roy Selmon, seen here with his son, Lee Roy Selmon Jr., made a major impact on USF and the entire Tampa Bay region. [ Times (2004) ]

Fisher spent 30 months on the project, starting with a drawing before making a model — a 20-inch maquette. Then came steel framing, clay, a ceramic shell and, eventually, bronze. The piece was installed Wednesday, and Fisher polished it Friday in advance of Saturday’s ceremony before the Kansas State game.

Fisher said he hopes people see the monument as a “point of inspiration of the human spirit” because of how the Selmons rose from so little to gain so much without losing their grace or generosity.

“They grew up in a time where kindness was not always considered,” Fisher said. “They grew up to be just beautiful people, caring of all. They looked back.

“Each one of them looked back to see how they could help. I don’t think you can do much more than that.”

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