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‘It’s been a highlight’: Sculptor recalls creating statue that now serves as memorial to Bowden

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 8:32 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - This week, fans flocked to the Bobby Bowden statue on Florida State’s campus to pay their respects to the legendary coach, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 91.

That statue was first unveiled back in 2004. Now, the man who sculpted it is reflecting on what it was like to try to capture the smallest nuances of one of the biggest names in football.

“In my career, it’s been a highlight,” sculptor Sandy Proctor said. “You work with all different sorts of people and he was the most gracious, patient, entertaining, complete gentleman I’ve ever been around. So for me, it was just a marvelous experience, it really was.”

Proctor spent nearly a year sculpting the nine-foot Bowden statue that stands outside FSU’s athletic center.

He first constructed the statue of styrofoam and then sculpted every inch out of clay.

Proctor gave WCTV a glimpse inside his studio this week and shared pictures of him and Coach Bowden at work, making adjustments and even making wax molds of Bowden’s hands to try to get them just right.

“To sit there and do a hand takes hours and they don’t have hours, so I do a hand and I cast it in wax,” he said. 

He still has a clay arm used in casting the Bowden statue.

“It was his hand holding the headset. You’d have to look at the bronze to tell, but I kept this,” Proctor said.

Proctor described taking meticulous measurements.

“I have a whole book there with all the measurements,” Proctor said.

The statue was unveiled in September 2004 and even grainy archive footage can’t hide the excitement of that day.

“Whoever said you should never meet your heroes, never met Bobby Bowden,” one woman said as she left flowers and a note at the statue this week.

To see fans gathering at the statue’s feet now, is so meaningful to the sculptor as Nole nation grieves Coach Bowden.

“They want to be a part of it. Where do they go? They don’t go to his house. They don’t go to the stadium. They don’t go to his office. They go to that and that’s their connection,” Proctor said. “That’s what they’re looking for, just a connection to him.”

One thing Proctor and Coach Bowden have in common is both are Hall of Famers: Proctor is in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame and of Bobby Bowden in the College Football Hall of Fame.

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