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Forever a Giant: Hall of Famer Woodson honored with sculpture in Fremont

Charles Woodson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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FREMONT, Ohio (WTVG) - Charles Woodson started his football career as a Little Giant at Fremont Ross before he went on to be a giant on every level of the game after that. There’s a life-size statue now standing in Fremont to honor one of the greatest football players of recent memory.

He won the Heisman in 1997 while at Michigan, and his professional career was full of accolades. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. During his induction speech, Woodson talked about putting his cleats on for the first time in Fremont and hanging them up in Canton.

He came back to Fremont earlier this month to be part of a big celebration of his career. Paying tribute to him was a top priority for the city he calls home.

Art Bucci is the head of the Fremont Area Foundation, which made the sculpture of Woodson as a Little Giant possible.

“This is something that we will never do again, so it had to be perfect,” said Bucci. “My quote was always we are bringing him home, and here he is. He’s home. I am so proud of all the people who made this possible. "

Art has known Woodson since the football legend was a kid.

“This is a memory, and I am now in my twilight years, that I put up there with getting married and having kids. It is unbelievable,” said Bucci. “I know his mother, brother, and sister. They were all here along with other family and friends. Such an amazing honor for an amazing man. I am certainly proud of everything he accomplished on the field, but I am also proud of the great person and role model he has become.”

Jason Johnston is the artist who created the sculpture. He grew up in Perrysburg, got a lot of his training at a foundry in the state of Oregon, and now lives in Columbus. Tackling this project wasn’t easy. What usually takes about a year had to be done in less than six months.

“I was honored. It was very humbling,” said Johnston. “It was one of those ‘I am not worthy’ moments. I had to take everything I learned to make everyone proud. On a sculpture of this size, you would normally have about a year. I had less than six months, but I was able to use some technology to help speed up the process and my friends at the foundry were also a big part of helping make it happen.”

The sculpture was unveiled during a home game against rival Sandusky in early September. The work of art immediately become an inspiration to the team. Players touched the sculpture as they entered the stadium. Bucci says after that big win, Woodson sent a Facebook message to the team.

“We played Oregon (Clay) last week, and he sent a message telling the kids, Let’s not live on last week’s win,” Bucci said. “Let’s light ‘em up, and we did.”

Johnston said it was an honor to be able to meet Woodson and get his reaction to the sculpture.

“When Charles saw the piece, he shook my hand and we had a genuine conversation,” Johnston said. “It made me feel fantastic.”

Johnston says the project delivers some important lessons for the game of life as well.

“It showed me the sculpture wasn’t just about Charles Woodson. It’s about everything he represents,” said Johnston. “Hope, drive, ambition, determination, and that feeling that the community is behind you to help you achieve your dreams.”

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