About six years ago, while on a visit to the University of Texas, Auburn University Athletic Director Jay Jacobs got the idea to erect statues at Auburn University to honor the school’s (then) two Heisman trophy winners and to commemorate Coach John Heisman, the trophy’s namesake.
“Texas has a statue honoring Earl Campbell, and I thought it was really impressive,” says Jacobs. “But I wanted to also honor Coach Heisman because Auburn is the only school where he coached that actually has a Heisman winner. So, we did our research, contracted with Ken Bjorge (Earl Campbell’s sculptor), identified a location and began the process of completing two statues to be unveiled at A-Day 2011.”
And then, the 2010 season happened.
“I don’t think anybody saw that coming,” says Jacobs. “But as the season developed, we realized there was the possibility we would have a third winner; by the Georgia game, we put all plans for the original reveal on hold.”
Within a month of that, Bjorge of Big Fork, Montana was back at the drawing board working on Auburn’s third Heisman statue to honor Cam Newton.
“Just like with Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson, I began by doing research on Cam Newton,” says Bjorge. “For all three of them, I learned things like height and weight, and I studied photographs to get an idea of each one’s power, physique and personality.”
From there, Bjorge created an 18-inch wax model, which was approved by university officials and even more importantly, the players and their families. Then, the actual sculpting began. Each piece was reinforced on the inside with stainless steel and built to one-and-a-half-times the actual size of each player at the time they played.
They are cast in bronze and coated with a patina; Auburn’s are classic brown. Each sculpture stands between nine and 10-feet tall and weighs between 800 and 900 pounds. They were shipped from Montana to Auburn by a freight company and kept under lock and key (and drapes) until the unveiling on April 14, 2012, with Bjorge and his wife, Tammy, in attendance.
“It was really neat for me to see the ‘end of the story,’” says Bjorge. “It was great to finally get to meet Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton, and to actually witness them seeing their respective sculptures for the first time; the families had seen them, but I don’t think the players had.”
Jacobs says the location of the statues on the east side of Jordan-Hare Stadium was selected because it is on the student-section side of the stadium, is where the Tiger Transit system runs, and is very visible to students, prospective students and football recruits. It is also in a prime location to be seen when ESPN hosts GameDay at AU.
“The location was very strategic,” says Jacobs. Also in the strategy was space for additional sculptures. “In the initial design, we left room for future winners, of course, not having any idea we would have a third winner so soon, but that just made it that much more exciting,” says Jacobs. “We also decided not to put them in any chronological order.”
The morning of the reveal, April 14, 2012, was a beautiful day, and the Auburn family came out by the thousands to honor their three beloved Heisman winners and the family of Heisman himself. Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton each addressed the crowd before snatching the drape off of their respective sculptures. Each time they spoke and each time the reveal was made, the crowd went wild; it was truly a “monumental” moment. Times three.
“We’re all family here,” Bo Jackson said at the unveiling. “And when you put on that sweatshirt or that t-shirt that says ‘Family, All In,’ wear it with pride, because that’s what we are here. We’re all in. Other people say, ‘Hey, we love our sports. We love this and that,’ but here at Auburn, we love Auburn.”
War Eagle! EAL
To see more of Bjorge’s work, go to
For information on Auburn football,
go to www.auburntigers.com.