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Wednesday, October 13, 2010
A Texas-sized monument to football

By Dave Wilson
Page 2

Texas high school football has been romanticized in books, TV and film. Now it will be immortalized in steel, hopefully with a little help from each of the state's 1,400 high schools.

Gerdau Ameristeel, a steel mill and steel recycling company, has created steel sculptures for the past two Super Bowls. The company, based in Tampa, Fla., created a huge Super Bowl ring for the game in Tampa in 2009 and an arch over Ocean Drive in Miami in 2010. The arch will be moving to a permanent home at the Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium.

Texas
A rendering of the "Cradle of Champions" monument, which will be 16 feet tall and weigh more than six tons.

The company also has a large presence in Texas, so it wanted to be a part of the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium this season.

Jim Kerkvliet, Gerdau's vice president of sales and marketing, said the concept for a sculpture in Texas was easy.

"We wanted to honor Texas and the rich tradition and heritage and legacy as it relates to football," Kerkvliet said. To do that, Gerdau has commissioned a 16-foot-tall piece in the shape of Texas with an oil derrick as part of the base, a football bursting through and the words "Cradle of Champions" beside it.

They're going to extraordinary effort to include the state's schools.

The company wants to incorporate a piece of steel from every high school in the state into the sculpture. "Symbolically, we want to get a small piece of steel from each of the schools, like a small bolt or a fencepost or a piece of rebar," Kerkvliet said. "Anything that's lying around."

It's not an easy process to build such a massive monument. But Kerkvliet said he wanted to represent "the fabric of Texas, just a piece of steel from all the high schools."

The parts will be collected at the company's steel facility in Midlothian, Texas, where they'll be melted in a furnace at 1,200 to 1,400 degrees and refashioned. The finished product will end up having about six tons of steel in it.

It will be fabricated in Fort Worth by Thornton Steel, then disassembled and transported to downtown Fort Worth, where it will be on display near Sundance Square. It will have a permanent home in Fort Worth, and Kerkvliet said the project will not end when the Super Bowl is done.

"We've been working with the Texas High School association to try to make sure to get the names of players who have gone from Texas high schools to the NFL," he said. "Every year when we get a new graduating class, we'll put their names on the plaques. Hopefully this will become kind of an ongoing tradition for years to come."

Kerkvliet said he knows that the list could be long.

"I'm sure there will be a lot more NFL players that will come from Texas. We might have to put two statues up to cover all the names."

To participate in the "Cradle of Champions" campaign and ensure qualified Texas high school alumni are honored appropriately, Texas high school representatives can visit www.leaderenterprises.com/gerdau.

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