Reaction from Johnny & fans made it all worthwhile


When the statue of Johnny Orr was unveiled at a ceremony earlier this month, there was a great sense of anticipation.

My focus was on Coach Orr’s reaction. That was because he had never seen the finished project up to that point.

Orr’s raw response was great. He seemed overjoyed.

“It’s just unbelievable to think they did this for me,” Orr said after the ceremony.

The level of detail in the finished piece is impressive. To prepare scupltors Lou Cella and Oscar Leon wanted as many photos of Orr as possible. The artists also watched videos of Orr.

On a visit to Chicago last fall, I saw a sculpture of former Cub Billy Williams in progress. The artists on that project had approximately 25 face shots to study in hopes of capturing all details. It seemed excessive, but I soon learned otherwise.

Because Johnny’s mouth is open in the pose we chose, his teeth were a critical element. One of the other sculptors at the Chicago studio is an oral surgeon. He was asked to review the teeth and make adjustments.

“It turned into a full day exercise (for the dentist) to make certain every detail of his teeth was correct,” Cella said.

Late in the process, the artists asked about the ring on Orr’s right finger. It was the team ring from his 1986 Sweet 16 team.

“Can we get a photo (of the ring)?”, Cella asked.

Not having a photo of his hand on file, we made arrangements to get a digital image taken and sent to the sculptors. The detail of the ring on the statue is amazing.

What’s interesting is that ring is visible only to people in Jordan Railey’s height bracket, because it’s more than seven feet in the air. But, no detail was left unstudied.

The statue is impressive. Coach Orr’s smile the day it was unveiled was priceless. The scene of fans waiting to pose with the statue (while camera phones clicked) that evening confirmed it was all worthwhile.

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