Jerry Richardson has always been a large presence. Now, he’s even larger.
The Carolina Panthers partners unveiled a nearly 13-foot statue of the team’s owner and founder at Bank of America Stadium on Monday as Richardson celebrated his 80th birthday.
The sculpture depicts Richardson in a business suit holding out a football with his left hand. To his left and right are two panthers that represent both offense and defense and North Carolina and South Carolina.
The sculptor, Todd Andrews, named the piece “The Tribute.” He sculpted the six panthers on pedestals around Bank of America Stadium, known as the Indomitable Spirits, as well as the statues of former team president Mike McCormack and linebacker Sam Mills.
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The sculpture sits at the stadium’s north entrance and is on a 4-foot-high pedestal. The statue of Richardson is double life size at 12-feet- 10-inches.
“The Indomitable Spirits who guard our stadium were led here by a man who took us beyond where others even imagined,” an inscription on the base of the sculpture reads. “In this place, for this place – his relentless drive inspired a display of unity in the Carolinas worthy of a world’s stage. On the occasion of Jerry Richardson’s 80th birthday, this sculpture is dedicated and commissioned as a loving gift to him and his family by his partners.”
Andrews said Richardson seemed “really pleased and grateful” at the unveiling Monday morning.
“What we did, in order to take the emphasis off of Mr. Richardson, we encompassed him with the other panthers so it wouldn’t be uncomfortable for Mr. Richardson to have this out there,” Andrews said.
“When I was doing the surface resolution, I tried to make the coat the same surface as the panthers. I’m trying to get across that he is also a panther.”
The sculpture weighs 4,500 pounds and was completed in just six months. Andrews saved the green paint he used on his original panthers sculptures and applied it to the eyes on the new panthers.
The panther to Richardson’s right is leaping and is formed in the likeness of the outline of North Carolina. Likewise, the panther to Richardson’s left is in the likeness of South Carolina.
The NFL awarded Richardson a franchise in 1993, and the Panthers played their first season in 1995.
“We are honored to present this extraordinary work of art to Jerry on his 80th birthday,” Panthers partners Steve and Jerry Wordsworth said in a statement. “It will always represent a symbol of heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the Richardson family for everything they have done for us as partners, fans and the community.”
Richardson also has a statue at Wofford College, where he played and graduated in 1959 and has since been a donor. Wofford dedicated the statue two years ago, and it depicts Richardson walking out toward Gibbs Stadium, where he played and where the Panthers hold their annual training camp.