College Football: Kentucky unveils sculpture honoring pioneers of SEC
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The statue honoring the four players who broke the color barrier in Southeastern Conference football – Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg – was unveiled at an event at the site of the statue on Thursday evening.
The statue commemorates the playing careers and lives of the first four African-American football players in SEC history. It will be located on a pedestal in the plaza between the new Kentucky Football Training Facility and Commonwealth Stadium, positioned to remind fans, coaches and players of the incredible contributions made by Northington, Page, Hackett and Hogg to the University of Kentucky, the SEC and college football on a national level.
“No four players in our program’s history have better demonstrated the values of courage, determination and selflessness than Nate, Greg, Wilbur and Houston,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “The pride we take in calling them Kentucky Wildcats is matched only by our gratitude for what they have done for this university and for college football in the South. We are proud to show that appreciation with the dedication of this statue that will occupy a prominent place at the home of Kentucky football.”
Cast in bronze, the statue features the four pioneers in uniform standing side by side. It was designed and sculpted by J. Brett Grill over the course of a year after interviews with the three living trailblazers; Page’s brother, Melvin; and teammates of the four. The statue is to scale, with the tallest figure standing approximately seven-and-a-half feet tall. It is 11-feet wide at its base and four feet in depth, weighing around 3,500 pounds.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Northington and Page’s arrival on the UK campus in 1966. Hackett and Hogg would join them a year later. Northington made his varsity debut on Sept. 23, 1967 against Indiana before breaking the SEC’s color barrier a week later when UK hosted Ole Miss on Sept. 30, 1967. Tragically, Page – Northington’s close friend – passed away just a day prior on Sept. 29 after suffering a neck injury in a practice accident. Hackett and Hogg would carry on Northington and Page’s legacy, with Hackett becoming the SEC’s first African-American team captain in any sport in 1969.
Kentucky football’s 2016 schedule poster also paid homage to the trailblazers, with four current players reenacting the poses from the statue and wearing the same numbers Northington, Page, Hackett and Hogg wore as Wildcats. The theme of the poster is “Make a Stand,” a nod to Northington, Page, Hackett and Hogg’s resolve in integrating SEC football.
The statue that will forever honor Wilbur Hackett, Houston Hogg, Greg Page and Nate Northington. pic.twitter.com/FzXkCNSAMi— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 22, 2016