The story of the statue of Lee Roy Salmon and his brothers in Oklahoma

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

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

“Their story is amazing,” Fisher said Friday, a day before the Sooners unveiled their article outside the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. “I think we can all learn something from them, because I definitely did.”

Salmon came from a farming family in Oklahoma before starring in the Sooners defense. Lee Roy became Hall of Famer with the Bucs, then helped bring football to the USF. Dewey also spent six years with pirates.

Besides their impact on the field, their kindness resonated. Fisher saw this when he spoke with Lucius and Dewey early in the process. He couldn’t meet Li Rui, who died in 2011, but his widow Clybra visited him in his studio.

Fisher asked Claybra to write something for the project, so she wrote her initials, with a heart in between. Fisher put it on the piece, behind Li Rui’s left leg.

The poses have been carefully chosen. Lucius, the oldest, in the middle is looking straight ahead. Dewey leans forward a bit to emphasize his work ethic and activism in the field and in society.

Roy—the gentle giant who loved children—looked relaxed, with his gaze tilted slightly.

Fisher, 39, said, “I think there was a chance to look at what’s out there and look a little bit up at the sky. I didn’t want to hit it with a hammer, but the possibility of looking up a little bit up at the sky, I thought, was trying to connect that spiritually.”

The late Lee Roy Salmon, seen here with his son, Lee Roy Salmon Jr., was a major influence on the USF and the entire Tampa Bay area. [ Times (2004) ]

Fisher spent 30 months on the project, starting with sketching before making a model – a 20-inch maquette. Then came the steel frame, the terracotta, the ceramic veneer, and finally the bronze. The piece was installed on Wednesday, and Fisher polished it the Friday before the Saturday gala before the Kansas State game.

Fisher said he hopes people will see the memorial as a “point of inspiration for the human spirit” because of how salmon have risen from so little to gain a lot without losing their grace or generosity.

“They grew up at a time when kindness wasn’t always a consideration,” Fisher said. “They grew up to be just beautiful people, who care about everyone. They looked back.

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

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