Indiana’s Very Own: The hands that built Peyton’s statue

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Imagine it’s your job to immortalize Peyton Manning with your bare hands, for people all over the world to see for decades to come.

One of Indiana’s very own won the job over artists across the country. He calls it the project of a lifetime.

“Ever since the Roman times there’s been statues of Roman gladiators outside of the stadiums. That’s kind of basically what it is,” Ryan Feeney said.

He’s creating the model of an idol--a statue to mark the most famous of Indianapolis Colts and celebrate his career, his character, his charisma.

The enduring image of the one and only Peyton Manning will come from Feeney’s hands.

“I felt pressure right at the beginning. I was like ‘Oh my gosh. How am I going to do this? Uhhhh.’ But then I kind of had to step back, relax.”

“He had artists from California to New York all calling. So it wasn’t like it was two or three people. It was probably two or three hundred people,” he said.

Ryan won the job after he created a miniature clay model of Manning. But if you're hoping for a preview, you won't get one because Feeney can’t show us.

In fact, he can’t reveal any of his creation, only a few hints.

“It’s larger than life-size. So it’s going to be tall. And just the size alone people are going to be in awe,” Ryan said.

“He’s going to be a little bit younger. So I had to be a bit of a plastic surgeon. Take away some of the wrinkles.”

He built it away from his studio at Indy Art Forge on the northeast side to keep it under wraps.

Of course, the Colts have seen the pose in its various forms from day one. They flew Feeney to California for a photo shoot with Manning.

“I studied his face, side. Side profiles. Front profile. I mean we took a couple hundred pictures.”

“I had some of the guys that actually dressed Manning for his games and helped me with his stance and say, ‘You know what? His thigh pads a little small. Let’s make it a little bit bigger.’ And I can sit there and add more clay. You know the towel that he wears the sweatbands on his arms. They’d see it and say ‘It needs to be a little bit bigger.’ And I’d make it a half-inch bigger.”

From this same workshop, Ryan’s hands created the eagle atop the 9/11 memorial in downtown Indianapolis, the statue saluting law enforcement outside the Marion County Jail and a peace dove inside the downtown Indy library made entirely of dismantled guns.

But he’s a little nervous about what you’ll think about his definitive tribute to Peyton.

“I want people to look at what I did and say that ‘He has talent.’ We all do. In everything we do, we want that pat on the back that says ‘Hey, good job.’”

“I hope they like it,” he said with a laugh.

Ryan’s worked on his Peyton statue for an entire year. It’s made of bronze, and he says it’ll look close to the Peyton who won the Super Bowl.

He expects Peyton will see it for the first time when everyone else sees it: Oct. 7, when the statue is unveiled to the public. The Colts will retire his jersey and induct him into the Ring of Honor on Oct. 8 at Lucas Oil Stadium.