CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Bears honored two of their own legends as statues of running back Walter Payton and team founder and coach George “Papa Bear” Halas were unveiled at Soldier Field.
The 12-foot, 3,000-pound bronze statues honoring the two Hall of Famers are being made public two days before Chicago hosts Green Bay to kick off the NFL’s 100th season on Thursday. They were created by sculptor Chad Fisher, who also created the statue of Halas that stands outside the team practice facility which bears his name in Lake Forest.
Both statues at Soldier Field stand outside Gate O, flanking the steps that lead to the south entrance to the stadium.
The first statue unveiled was of Halas. It features the famed Bears coach wearing a jacket, tie, and his trademark fedora; with the expression as if he was calling a play from the sidelines.
“We used to drive along the outer drive through the parks and see the statues in the park settings. It seemed like most of them were generals on horses,” said Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey, Halas’ eldest child. “But we never dreamed that someday, our dad and a Chicago Bears player would be honored in the same way. We are very happy to be here.”
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Dan Hampton, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Bears, paid tribute to Halas and Payton, his former teammate.
“Finally at long last, the two statues we’ve waited 100 years for. It’s only fitting that these two most colossal of all figures in a long line of gigantic characters of the Chicago Bears will forever be immortalized,” Hampton said.
The second statue revealed was of Payton, a running back for the Bears from 1975 to 1987, winning Super Bowl XX after the 1985 season. His statue shows the player known as “Sweetness” in a stance, clutching a ball in his right hand, wearing a helmet, his number 34 jersey, staring straight ahead.
“I know Walter would be humbled to have this honor bestowed upon him, just as Jarrett, Brittney and our entire family are,” said Connie Payton, Walter’s widow. “To say that I am enthusiastic about unveiling this statue to the city of Chicago is an understatement. What a proud moment for all of us and the city of Chicago. We’re not just Chicago Bears fans, we’re family.”
“He would be so proud of this moment and moved beyond words,” said daughter Brittney. “We remember his humility, his work ethic and a smile that we know could light up a room.”
Payton entered the Hall of Fame in 1993. He held 16 NFL records when he retired. The Bears also retired his jersey number, 34, in 1993.
Halas, who led the team for 40 years, entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in its first class in 1963. The Bears have worn his initials, GSH, on the sleeves of their jerseys ever since his death in 1983.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.