Mormon sculptor/former BYU athlete remains a familiar figure at NFL Hall of Fame

Credit: Courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Credit: Deseret News Archive
LDS artist Blair Buswell works on sculpture of President Thomas S. Monson in his Utah studio. Credit: Deseret News
President Thomas S. Monson and his daughter, Sister Ann M. Dibb. stand next to clay sculpture of President Monson crafter by LDS artist Blair Buswell. Credit: Deseret News
Sculptor Blair Buswell applies finishing touches on his sculpture of basketball coaching legend John Wooden. Credit: Lee Benson
Surrounded by his sculptures, Utah native Blair Buswell at his studio in Pleasant Grove. Credit: Lee Benson
In his Pleasant Grove studio, Blair Buswell stands next to his sculpture of basketball coaching legend John Wooden. The bronze statue that was cast from the clay was unveiled today at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. Credit: Lee Benson
Sculptor Blair Buswell uses calipers to take facial measurements of President Thomas S. Monson. Brother Buswell's daughter, Savannah, records the measurements. The data was used by Brother Buswell to create a bronze bust of President Monson. Credit: Deseret News
Blair Buswell, a Utah sculptor shows Steve Young the bust of Young that will be at the NFL Hall of Fame when Steve Young will be inducted in August. June 30, 2005 Photo by Stuart Johnson (Submission date: 06/30/2005) Credit: Stuart Johnson/Deseret Morning N
All sorts of celebrities, including golf great Jack Nicklaus, hang out at Blair BuswellÕs studio in Pleasant Grove. Credit: Lee Benson
Blair BuswellÕs larger-than-life sculpture of John Wooden includes a larger-than-life rolled up game program: WoodenÕs signature prop at courtside. Credit: Lee Benson
Blair Buswell speaks to those in attendance at the Church History Museum's Artists at Work 2011 exhibition in Salt Lake City on Friday March 4, 2011. Mike Terry, Deseret News Credit: Deseret News
Sculptor Blair Buswell, himself a former football play at BYU, poses with just a few of the 80 busts he has made for the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Steve Young is in the middle center, flanked by John Madden and Dan Marino. Credit: Lee Benson
Sculptor Blair Buswell works with President Thomas S. Monson and Sister Ann M. Dibb as he places the finishing touches on a sculpture of the Church leader. Credit: Deseret News


It takes a special kind of talent to draw the owner of the world’s most valuable sports franchise to northern Utah County.

But, sure enough, iconic Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently ventured from Big D to the Pleasant Grove studio of Mormon sculptor/former BYU football player Blair Buswell.

Jones’ visit with the lifelong Mormon was really not that unusual.

Buswell has held court with a “who’s-who” of pro football legends. Since 1983, the returned missionary has sculpted the likenesses of almost 100 inductees to the NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. His subjects have included Jerry Rice, John Elway, Bill Parcells and Brett Favre. This year he crafted the bronze busts of 2017 inductees Jones and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Kurt Warner.

His many portrait busts are on permanent display at the Hall’s museum in Canton, Ohio.

Buswell returned again to Canton last week to witness the Aug. 5 unveiling of his bronzes at the Hall of Fames’s annual induction ceremony. As the HOF’s lead sculptor, he also helped direct the development of the busts of the five other 2017 inductees crafted by fellow Utah artist Ben Hammond and Texan Scott Myers.

“This year was a lot of fun because we stayed in the same hotel as the ‘Gold Jackets’ — the returning HOF inductees,” he told the Church News. “I was able to catch up with a lot of the guys I had worked with in the past.”

The North Ogden native enjoyed a busy week at the Hall of Fame. On Aug. 3, he participated in the unveiling ceremony of his 8-foot-tall statue of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. Overlooking the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the statue pays tribute to the venerable NFL/NBA owner who helped build the facility.

Buswell begins working on his HOF sculptures each year immediately after the new class of inductees are announced. He spends time with each of his subjects — often, as with Jones and Warner, in his Pleasant Grove studio.

It’s a chance to take facial measurements, peruse game photos and get to know the inductee. It’s a collaborative effort. Buswell and his subjects work together to determine the ideal age, hairstyle and expression for each HOF bust.

“I don’t want (an inductee) to leave until he is comfortable with what I’m doing,” he said.

Talking football during the consultation is a fail-safe icebreaker. “It helps to have common ground,” said the one-time college running back, who played at BYU from 1979-81.

Buswell has good memories working with all of his HOF subjects — but two are extra special: former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, who helped him land his job at the NFL Hall of Fame, and his old Cougar teammate, Steve Young.

Latter-day Saints need not travel to Canton to enjoy Buswell’s work. His life-size bust of President Thomas S. Monson is on display in the Conference Center’s “Hall of Prophets.” He also sculpted the Hall’s bust of President Harold B. Lee.

A member of the Mountainville 2nd Ward, Alpine Utah West Stake, Buswell and his wife, Julie, are the parents of three children.

His artwork stretches far beyond the NFL and Mormon subjects — including monuments to film icon Charlton Heston, golf’s Jack Nicklaus and Yankee great Mickey Mantle.

But, he said, one legend is missing from his commission “wishlist”: BYU football coach LaVell Edwards.

Buswell said he wants few things more — on both a professional and personal level — than to use his sculpting talent to pay tribute to his late coach and friend.

“I hope it happens,” he said.

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