The Eleven Warriors, an Ohio State University fan organization, was able to raise over $40,000 to erect a statue of Woody Hayes in Newcomerstown, where the legendary coach graduated from Newcomerstown High School, where his father, Wayne Hayes, was superintendent.
In hindsight, it seems like a no brainer to have something significant to honor him with there, but it took a great deal of collaboration to make it happen.
"A couple years ago, we went around to all these towns where revered couches came from — Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, Paul Brown. Small Ohio towns produced an inordinate amount of good coaches," said Jason Priestas, the founder and publisher of Eleven Warriors.
When they landed in Newcomerstown, they realized that was the place where they could make the biggest impact to the Hayes legacy.
"We wanted to do our part," Priestas said. "Woody’s a demigod when it comes to OSU football, so we thought it’d be great to honor him with something big."
The warriors reached out to Alan Cottrill, a local sculptor, who Priestas said was completely on board. They had their goal and the right partners — now they just had to get the money. The website used their platform to reach out and raise funds.
Some big players stepped up and donated money. Kirk Herbstreit, an ESPN analyst and former OSU quarterback, was one of the notables who gave generously. His father, Jim, was a former OSU captain and coached under Hayes.
After a little over a year, however, they only had half the money they needed.
"There was a little doubt at first," Priestas said. "Even if we hadn’t have hit the goal, I’m happy we tried. [Hayes] is who a lot of people think of when they hear Ohio State Football."
When Cottrill got word that they were a little low on the cash— about $18,000 low— he decided to do it anyway. Cottrill was an admirer of Hayes as well and wanted to see the project succeed. When word got out that the statue was a go, money came pouring in from people wanting to be a part of it. Within three months, just a fraction of the original time, they were able to raise well over the original amount.
Priestas said Newcomerstown had been incredibly supportive the whole time.
"We put the word out, but Newcomerstown has been amazing to work with," Priestas said. "They were really eager to do it. A lot of small towns wouldn’t have shown as much interest."
As the commemoration approaches, the Eleven Warriors are happy to have been able to succeed in creating something for the community.
"We’re really excited, but this isn’t about us," Priestas said. "It’s about Newcomerstown and the Woody Hayes family."