Dallas Morning News, August 8, 2009
By Michael E. Young
GRANBURY, Texas – He was 8 years old then, in the stands at the Cotton Bowl, so infatuated with the Dallas Cowboys that he’d memorized the jersey number of every player on the roster.
Scott Myers has created seven busts for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – including the likenesses of Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes (front left) and Vikings great Randall McDaniel (front right), both of whom will be inducted in a ceremony today in Canton, Ohio.
But even on a team filled with superstars – Lee Roy Jordan, Don Meredith, Chuck Howley and Don Perkins – Scott Myers had his favorites: Bob Lilly on defense, and on offense, Bob Hayes, the man who changed the way the game was played.
Today, Hayes finally takes his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Myers will be there as the bronze bust of the late player is revealed, proud to have created his long-ago hero’s image with his own hands.
Trained as a veterinarian, a profession he still pursues three days a week, Myers is also a largely self-taught artist and sculptor, with seven Hall of Fame busts to his credit. But the bust of Hayes honors the only athlete to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring – Myers’ homage to the man he watched so many years before.
“It will be a little bit bittersweet,” he said. “Bob’s family is so happy this day has come, but they wished Bob could have been here for it. He’s in several halls, but this is the one he always wanted.”
Hayes, a man so fast that no defensive player could cover him one on one, died of kidney failure in 2002. He was 59.
A cowboy background
Hayes was a track star who turned to football. Myers played a little football, too, in junior high and for the JV team at Haltom High School in Haltom City.
“I had a very unstellar career,” he said.
He was into rodeo then, and when he went off to Texas A&M to train as a veterinarian, he spent summers working as a cowboy, the ropin’ and ridin’ kind. Even then, he sketched and painted, selling his art to pay his tuition.
Now he divides his time equally between medicine and art.
“I sold my veterinary practice in 2002, but I still work there three days a week. I probably see more patients now than I did when I owned the place,” Myers said.
And three days a week, he’s in his studio, working on commissioned pieces, or out sketching ideas.
“I love both worlds,” Myers said. “In one, I’m isolated, and in the other, I’m working with people nonstop. You just have to be able to make that jump between the right and left brain pretty quickly.”
Sculpting busts for the Hall of Fame requires some of each.
He did two this year, Hayes and Minnesota Vikings great Randall McDaniel, and five others in previous years, including Rayfield Wright of the Cowboys.
Every one is a collaborative effort.
The players decide how they’ll be portrayed – fresh out of college, or maybe later in their career. Some wear their game face, as Wright chose, or greet Hall of Fame visitors with a bright, easy smile, like former 49er Fred Dean.
Hayes’ family decided to depict Bob at the beginning of his career, soon after he won Olympic gold at the 1964 Games in Tokyo.
“He’s the most youthful player I’ve done,” Myers said.
Some, like Bruce Matthews of the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, were only a few years removed from the game when they were honored.
“But some played 10-12 years, and their careers could have ended 20 years ago. So when you go to their homes to sculpt them, you say, ‘Let’s go back in time,’ and they choose the look they want.”
Sometimes, though, it isn’t the one people remember.
When Myers met with Emmitt Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas told him he wanted a mustache.
“He said he always wanted one, but the coaches wouldn’t let him,” Myers said. “He told me, ‘I’m going to the Hall with a mustache.’ “
Thanks to Myers, he did.
As Myers increased his focus on the arts in recent years, he took a course taught by Blair Buswell, the Hall of Fame’s chief sculptor, and a guy who caught passes from Steve Young and Jim McMahon in college at Brigham Young.
Buswell eventually asked Myers whether he’d want to sculpt a Hall of Fame bust, and he quickly agreed. The aim for each is to create an almost anatomically accurate depiction, because both are sticklers for structure.
So each winter, after the NFL’s Pro Bowl game, Buswell meets with that year’s Hall of Fame inductees with his cameras and his calipers, measuring every feature on their faces, and shares the data with Myers and other sculptors.
“You have to age them back to when they played – some more than others,” Buswell said. “It’s hard to look at a guy who’s been out of the game for 20-plus years and age him back to his prime.
“That’s when we talk about looking for structure, looking for different bones, and deciding where to add and where to take away.”
And then they work to capture the essence of the man.
Capturing the subject
No matter where he meets his subject – at the player’s home or in his own studio – Myers sets up his roughed-out sculpture right next to his subject, at exactly the same level, facing the same direction. And then he goes to work, a process that can take all day.
During the long sessions, artist and subject talk. The conversation might start with football, but soon it becomes a life story, and Myers loves the insights he gets.
McDaniel came down to Myers’ backyard studio over Memorial Day weekend, but made it absolutely clear he had to be back in Minnesota by Tuesday.
“Randall is a teacher’s aide in a public school in Minnesota, and he takes care of four little boys,” Myers said. “He said, ‘I can’t not be back there for them.’
“Here’s this mammoth guy, and he was so dedicated to those little kids. That told me a lot about him.”
The measurements and photos shape the structure of the bust. But the stories help give it life.
“Each person has a special characteristic,” Myers said. “I look for the two or three essential things I need to capture the person.”
With Hayes, that was impossible. Fortunately, his son, Bob Jr., proved a perfect stand-in.
“Bob is the only bust I’ve done posthumously,” he said, “so the family suggested we use Bob Jr.’s measurements. Later, Bob Jr. and Bob’s widow came down here, and we did some little subtle things, and we were set.”
Of course, there was something very special about crafting that particular piece of art, something that took Myers back more than 40 years.
“All these guys have been a blessing in my life,” he said. “But I still remember watching Bob Hayes at the Cotton Bowl. During his era, he was the wide receiver. He was the guy.
“So of all the busts I’ve done, his is the coolest one for me.”