It’s a reunion that was years in the making — Woody Hayes has finally returned home.
Not everyone has heard of the small town of Newcomerstown, Ohio, and even fewer people know the sleepy little town was where the legendary Buckeyes coach grew up. Two years ago, Chris Lauderback and Jason Priestas of Eleven Warriors, a website about everything Buckeyes, set out to fix that as part of their Pay It Forward project.
In a matter of months, Eleven Warriors raised enough money — $40,000 — to fund the creation of a life-sized bronze statue of Hayes. The statue was crafted by renowned sculptor Alan Cottrill, who was the creator behind the statue of Hayes at OSU’s indoor practice facility and the statue of Thomas Edison at the U.S. Capitol.
More than 3,000 people packed Lee Stadium in Newcomerstown to witness the unveiling of the statue. Even Buckeye great Archie Griffin and Hayes’ son Steven made the trip to speak at the event.
“You know, Woody left us in 1987, and in the three decades that have passed, his legend has only grown,” Griffin told the crowd. “What stands out so many years later his how much he truly cared for us and what he tried to teach us about the world that we live in.”
Steven Hayes said that for his father, coaching wasn’t just about football.
“He was prouder of his players’ accomplishments in the classroom and out of college in their communities,” he said.
While Hayes would likely be too humble to be proud of a statue made in his likeness, it was a big gesture for one of the small town’s favorite sons.
The statue will be permanently housed at the Newcomerstown Historical Society Museum for public viewing.