Ernie Davis Statue

Last fall was an exciting and special time for Helmet Hut .  All the months that went into the Universal Pictures movie project "The Express" was coming to a head.   The events surrounding this movie seemed never ending and all went so smoothly.  From the movie itself to the cross country premiers; the actors signings to the unveiling of the Ernie Davis statue on the school campus.  Uhhhhh... Syracuse, we have a problem.

Last fall you may have read about the Ernie Davis statue that was unveiled at Syracuse between the Carrier Dome and the University Quad.  The uproar that soon followed was because of the NIKE cleats Ernie had on his feet.  Nike would not become a company until the mid 60s and that famous SWOOSH popped out around 1971.  There were other issues like the modern helmet he was holding and the football tucked under his arm. 

We were honored that the good folks at Syracuse called us to help the sculpture, Bruno Lucchesi and his wonderful wife Ann, re work Ernie and bring him back to a more time correct period.   We will never forget our first conversation with Bruno's protective wife Ann, we got a polite third degree.  "Who are you?  Who sent you? How do we know your items are the correct ones for Ernie?"  Little did we know that Bruno and Ann had been through hell and back with the media and the unforgiving and ignorant blogosphere.  Quickly it became clear that this was a big deal, so much that Mr. Lucchesi needed a press statement due to the bombardment of inquires.


"I want to make clear what happened in relation to the sculpture of Ernie Davis for Syracuse University. I was commissioned by Syracuse University to make this bronze life size sculpture of Ernie Davis in October of 2007.  Syracuse University sent me all of the materials of Ernie’s uniform and football gear – the clothing, the helmet, cleats, pads and the football to be used in the making of Ernie’s sculpture.

When the clay stage was completed, Syracuse University approved it.  When the bronze was completed Syracuse University again approved it. And they paid for it upon its completion.  They told me that they were thrilled with it.

Syracuse University picked up Ernie’s bronze sculpture in June 2008, photographed it, and installed it right before its unveiling on  September 13, 2008, on campus.  On September 16, 2008, I was shocked to learn that the materials given  to me for the helmet and the cleats were mistaken.  I readily agreed  to make the necessary changes in the sculpture.  Currently, I am  working with Syracuse University to make these corrections to the  sculpture but, I want to make it clear that I did exactly what I was  asked to do and the mistake was not made by me." 


Over the next few conversations there grew a confidence that Helmet Hut was here to help in any way we could and if it took a year to get the story right, well then it would take a year.  Syracuse realized their mistake and gave Bruno all the time and resources he needed to resolve these issues.  So the Statue was unbolted from its pedestal and taken back to the studio to start the laborious process of removing several integral components.  A true nightmare!

We sent to the Lucchesi's the correct suspension helmet with proper mask, several sizes of the early 60s Riddell snug tie cleats and an early 1960 Spalding J5-V football.  The helmet and football were no problem at all but it took several weeks to determine the correct shoe size Ernie wore and whether they should be a low or a high top cleat.  Reviewing countless game photos we came to the conclusion that Ernie wore low top cleats.  It is possible he wore high tops in some games, though we found no evidence.  For some reason Ernie wore high tops in almost all media related photo sessions.    This information was very important because no one wanted the statue to come back again.


After working with Bruno and Ann for months we all made sure nothing was missed, including the chin strap.  It was important to make sure the statue was as correct as humanly possible.  Just last week during spring break and with basically no fan fair, the statue was again hoisted to its intended resting place.   We found it touching that Ann and Bruno always referred to the statue as "Ernie" like it was a living and breathing thing.    Well to them it is and we feel Syracuse could not have found better people for the job.

If interested in any of these Syracuse helmets please click on the photos below.