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Enshrining a legend

Tillman statue an authentic likeness, down to the era-accurate football helmet.
ASU football team to start tradition of touching statue as they charge field.
August 30, 2017

Bronze statue of Pat Tillman, created by an ASU alumna, looms large both in ASU hearts and now at Sun Devil Stadium

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

Arizona State University has unveiled a new statue of American hero Pat Tillman, who played football at ASU before sacrificing his life as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan in 2004.

On Wednesday evening, a maroon-and-gold wrap dropped to reveal the life-size bronze figure of Tillman, shown in his ASU uniform, ready to sprint onto the field. Including a pedestal, the statue stands 7½ feet tall in front of the new Tillman Tunnel that leads players onto the north end of Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium.

Kevin Tillman spoke at the unveiling ceremony, telling the crowd that his brother’s likeness is everywhere at ASU but that the university had a big impact on Pat as well.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could be. He didn’t focus on money or things or a pretty statue,” he said. “It was, ‘How do I make myself better in all of these different facets in my life?’ And ASU gave him the opportunity to do that.”

ASU Coach Todd Graham said the football team will start a new tradition of touching the statue as they charge onto the football field.

“I want to challenge our players with this,” he said. “If you come out and touch that statue, you need to pour everything you have onto the field and play with passion because that’s what his life was about — having a passion for what you’re doing.”

Artist Jeff Carol Davenport, an ASU alumna, created the statue, which portrays a younger Pat Tillman with a fringe of hair peeking out from under his helmet.

“I’m an ASU graduate and I had followed Pat’s journey, and I always thought it would be wonderful to do a sculpture of Pat,” said Davenport, an art teacher at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix who spent nine months on the project.

“It’s a great honor to do this.”

Tillman was a student-athlete at ASU from 1994 to 1998, earning a degree in marketing, and then played football professionally with the Arizona Cardinals. Reacting to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Tillman brothers enlisted in the Army together in May 2002. Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan in 2004.

Tillman’s influence still touches the ASU football team, whose members wear number 42 on their uniforms every year. Graham said the team watches highlights of Tillman almost every day because his passion for playing inspired his teammates to excel.

Arthur Pearce II, a Mesa businessman and third-generation Sun Devil, donated the statue after hearing Graham’s vision for it.

“I’ve always admired Pat, as everybody has in Arizona,” said Pearce, who earned a degree in business from ASU in 1975 and watched Tillman play in the 1990s.

“Pat symbolizes courage and persevered to be the best he could be,” said Pearce, who pulled the cord that unveiled the statue at a ceremony attended by the Tillman family, ASU leaders and football players.

“This will be a lasting memory of Pat that will be here 100 years from now so students from Arizona State will know who he is.”

Pearce asked Davenport to create the Tillman statue because he was so pleased with the 2014 sculpture she did of Pearce’s grandfather, Zebulon Pearce, that sits in downtown Mesa. Zebulon Pearce played football at the Tempe Normal School — now ASU — in 1899, graduating with teaching credentialsThe Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, named for him and established in 1971, honors teaching excellence in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.

Sculpting is only one of Davenport’s careers. She earned her master’s of elementary education in 2008 from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU and has been teaching while also making art in her studio in New River.

“I taught fourth grade my first year teaching, and for our field trip we went to the state Capitol,” she said. “I told the students that I made the police K-9 memorial that’s there, and when they saw it, they started asking for my autograph.”

Davenport was so excited when Pearce asked her to do the project in November that she started sketching out the model that night. She began by looking at every photograph of Tillman that she could find.

“In the original image I was given of Pat coming out of the tunnel, his hands are just at his side in a more relaxed pose, but I wanted to tell a little more of the story,” she said.

“So in the final form, his glove from his right hand is in his left hand because in my mind, he’s so anxious to get onto the field that he didn’t put his glove on.”

The sculpting process started with an 18-inch-tall maquette, or model, made out of clay. Originally, she designed it with Tillman not wearing a helmet. But ASU and the Tillman family asked that she create the image with a helmet. She bought a helmet from Tillman’s era so she could get the Sparky logo just right.

The final maquette was taken to Bollinger Atelier, a fine-arts foundry in Tempe, where the staff made a digital scan and then created a three-dimensional version in foam. The foam was coated with rubber and then clay to make the molds.

Bronze ingots were heated to 2,030 degrees and poured into the molds. Because the statue is so large, it was divided into several molds. After cooling, Davenport took a sledgehammer to the molds to reveal the bronze pieces underneath. The pieces were then welded together.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Davenport wanted a specialist to work on the finish, or patina, of the statue, so she had ASU alumna Aiya Jordan come from San Francisco to spend a full day completing the exterior. Bronze is somewhat flat in appearance, and applying special patinas creates a glowing finish with a hint of color.

Jordan spent several hours one day recently with a huge blowtorch in one hand and a squirt bottle of chemicals in the other, climbing up and down a ladder, coaxing out the image of Tillman in his uniform. Sulfurated potash, a dark substance, created definition in the folds of the socks and the veins on the forearms. A touch of maroon pigment brought the jersey to life.

After the patina process, a clear coat was applied, making the 400-pound bronze statue nearly impervious to damage from the Arizona sun.

Jordan, who earned a bachelor’s of fine arts from ASU's School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in 2004, worked with Davenport at Bollinger Atelier several years ago.

“I was super excited to do this because I’m an alumnus and because it’s Pat Tillman,” she said.

Davenport found the entire process to be emotional.

“For those who know me, I'm sure they would not be surprised to hear that I have shed several tears along the way, both happy and sad,” she said.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Healthy Devils: Eating well at ASU

Overnight oats are full of fiber, easy to make and budget-friendly.
August 31, 2017

School of Nutrition and Health Promotion faculty demonstrate simple, nutritious recipes that anyone can make

Editor's note: This is the first installment in an occasional series featuring nutritious recipes demonstrated by faculty from the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, an academic unit of ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

The dreaded “freshman 15” weight gain is based on the notion that students adjusting to a sudden lifestyle change don’t always make the best food choices. But eating healthy can be a challenge throughout college, especially if you’re living in a dorm or on limited means; stoves, expensive ingredients and the time it takes to make nutritious meals are luxuries the average college student doesn’t always have.

Jessica Lehmann knows that from personal experience. During her time at Wesleyan University, she resorted to time-honored — and nutritionally questionable — dorm room staples like pizza, bagels and noodles.

“I don’t think I ate a vegetable for a few years,” she recalled, not at all wistfully.

Now, as a lecturer at ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Lehmann wants students to know that they don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a balanced diet.

“Simple foods you can make at home are the best,” she said. “And you don’t have to be a gourmet chef.”

To put proof in the pudding, Lehmann demonstrated a simple recipe for ASU Now that uses everyday, affordable ingredients and requires virtually no culinary skills.

“Overnight oats is a good make-ahead breakfast or snack to get students off to a good start,” Lehmann said. “It’s rich in fiber, budget-friendly and doesn’t use heat.”

Students can use their dorm fridge to make it, and they can throw in whatever fruit they bring back from the dining hall for added nutritional value.

To make overnight oats, combine equal parts oats, yogurt and milk in a container (yogurt is optional but Lehmann said it gets students into a good habit of incorporating probiotics into their diet; if you decide not to use yogurt, double the amount of milk so the oats have enough liquid to absorb). Then place the container in the fridge — you guessed it — overnight.

When you take it out in the morning, the oats will have softened in the liquid. Then comes the fun part: Add whatever natural flavors, sweeteners, fruits or seeds you like. Lehmann suggests trying nut butter, vanilla, cinnamon, honey or locally produced date syrup as flavorings and sweeteners.

If you’re using dried fruits or chia seeds, it’s best to add them before putting the mixture in the refrigerator so they can get soft and chewy with the oats. If you’re using fresh fruits or other seeds and nuts, add them right before eating.

All of these things are just suggestions, though.

“You can customize it according to your taste buds and you don’t have to use all the ingredients,” Lehmann said. “That’s the beauty of it.”

Overnight oats will keep well in a refrigerator for two to three days.

As a teacher of subjects like nutrition communication, healthy cuisine and human nutrition, Lehmann may be at the front of the classroom now but those late nights studying and early morning exams are still all too fresh in her memory.

“Students don’t think about what’s healthy, they think about being full or getting caffeine,” she said. “And I sympathize with my students. I get it. (Lehmann was late to her first college exam, which started at 8am, because she overslept.) But it’s better to reach for healthy food when you’re up late studying.”

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Overnight Oats


½ cup rolled oats

½ cup plain yogurt (optional; if leaving out, make sure to double the amount of milk to provide enough liquid for the oats to soak in)

½ cup milk of your choice

Possible additions (all optional; be creative!):

1-2 tablespoon nut or seed butter (peanut, almond, sunflower, etc.)

½ cup sliced fruit (could be fresh, frozen or dried; try raisins, bananas, apples, berries, etc.)

½ to 1 teaspoon sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, date syrup, etc.)

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1-2 tablespoons nuts or seeds (sliced almonds, raw cashews, etc.)

Sprinkle of cinnamon

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine the oats, yogurt and milk in a bowl or container. Add nut butter, vanilla and cinnamon if you’re using them. If you’re using chia seeds or dried fruit, it’s best to add them now so they can soak up the liquid and become soft and chewy along with the oats. You could add frozen fruit now too. If you’re using bananas, you could add them now or right before you eat the oats. Avoid adding any other kinds of fresh fruit, nuts or seeds until right before you want to eat them. Mix well and allow to chill in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the oats will have softened in the liquid. Add the fresh fruit, nuts or seeds. Add the sweetener. Stir the overnight oats well so that you get oats and lots of delicious flavor and texture in every bite.