The Super Bowl is still more than a week away, but the image which many feel will be most emblematic of the game in the future -- and the Dallas-Fort Worth region's first foray into hosting the world's biggest football event -- is already officially on display. As of 11 a.m. CST Friday, a giant hunk of steel in the shape of Texas will forevermore leave its mark on Fort Worth.
Perhaps even more enormous than it was made to appear in conceptual drawings, Gerdau Ameristeel's 16-foot tall, seven-ton steel Texas (it was originally scheduled to weigh just six) is, in fact, propped up by an oil derrick. The "Cradle of Champions" sculpture does, in fact, have an enormous steel football protruding from it's heart, as if it was a stake sticking out of a dead vampire.
But most impressively, the hulking mass of steel is, in fact, comprised of recycled scrap steel from high school stadiums across the state, and is now brandished with the names of some 2,000 NFL players who began their long personal football journeys in the Lone Star State.
"I think it's just incredible," Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown told Prep Rally from the monument's unveiling, where he was on hand to see his own name etched in its side. "I think about when I'm long gone this will still be standing and it'll still have my name on it.
"When I left [Dallas' Woodrow Wilson High], never did I see Texas high school honors coming my way. My high school career finished 4-25-1. My experience on the football field was so horrific because of the wins and losses, but we had such a great time and we couldn't do any better than what we did. How do you go out and compete against these Carters and South Oak Cliffs and Roosevelts without that talent level? Whatever happens to me with high school honors is such a blessing and gives me hope for the future. I tell kids, 'Look, this is how it all started with me.'"
The steel structure adorned with Tim Brown and nearly 2,000 other names was assembled in Fort Worth's Sundance Square over two days -- the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that assembly began on the 25th -- and is scheduled to remain in the public square until Feb. 6 or 7. At that point it will be moved to TCU's Amon Carter Stadium, where it will have a permanent home just outside the stadium's front gates.
"[Fort Worth] Mayor Moncrief reached out to the chancellor of TCU about having the monument at their school," Gerdau vice president of sales and marketing Jim Kerkvliet told Prep Rally. "We felt it was right to put it with the right people at the right location."
The plan to continue to add future NFL Texans brings a clever continuity and sense of legacy that Gerdau Ameristeel's past Super Bowl projects have lacked. While the glitz was certainly there in both Miami and Tampa Bay, the cultural longevity of the new monument -- both in terms of the monuments composition and its message -- seemed to be lacking. Appropriately, this monument was also conceived, fabricated and assembled entirely in Texas by Texas workers connected with Ameristeel.
Each year, someone from Ameristeel will add new names to the back of the monument, honoring new Texas NFL players and any which were missed on its initial design. Those names will be carved into recycled steel which came almost entirely from loose pieces of current and former Texas high school football stadiums, with a helping hand from steel salvaged from the demolition of the Cowboys' old Texas Stadium.
"We reached out to all 1,300 schools from across Texas," Kerkvliet said. "We got the name of all alumni who went on to play football in the NFL, and got pieces of steel from wherever we could from their stadium and put it in furnace.
"We got a lot of response [from Texas high schools]. We got feedback and steel from all regions within Texas, which was important to have all the regions represented."
If nothing else, the monument achieves what it aimed to do: marking Texas as the nation's foremost high school football-mad state. If Florida, Ohio, California or anywhere else would like to challenge that claim, all they need is a long list of NFL veterans and eight or more tons of steel in the shape of their respective state. Something tells us that isn't happening anytime soon.