Skip to main content

Joe Thomas - Hall of Fame 2023

Presented by

A dive into the details of Joe Thomas' Hall of Fame bust

For sculptor Ben Hammond, the creation of Thomas’ bust was all about showcasing his personality


When sculptor Ben Hammond sits down with a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and forms a clay mold for their bust, he strives to capture more than just the shape of their face.

"The process is to try and capture their personality," Hammond said. "It's one thing to make a portrait look like somebody. It's another to catch their personality."

Hammond, one of three sculptors who constructs bronze busts for Canton, found that job easy for Joe Thomas, who spent roughly 10 hours sitting in front of Hammond in April at his studio in American Fork, Utah, while Hammond constructed a clay figure of Thomas' head with the additional help of measurements and pictures.

Yes, 10 hours is a lengthy amount of time, but it allowed Hammond to learn all about the Browns legend in one day. He learned about Thomas' deep Wisconsin roots and appreciation of farming, which Hammond related to because he grew up on a farm. They're also both avid backpackers and lovers of the outdoors — Thomas had just recently completed a hike across the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

With Thomas, the time flew by, and Hammond discovered he was just as likable of a human being as he was an offensive lineman.

"He holds that Midwestern, laid-back personality," Hammond said. "He's country strong, and he never really needed to get psyched out before a game to get pumped up. He was a big, strong guy who was easygoing and loved football, and he was bigger and stronger than most people who tried to get around him.

"That's what we wanted to capture."

Hammond attempted to achieve that by adding a smile.

It's an uncommon look on a bust for offensive linemen, many of whom have typically preferred a more stern, straight-faced expression on their busts. Playing in the trenches requires toughness, and those talented enough to gain entry into the Hall have typically wanted their bust to exude that trait.

But as Hammond was lured into Thomas' happy-go-lucky spirit, he believed his bust deserved a different type of look, one with a smile and "a little bit of a smirk," which was the look Thomas told him he had wanted from the start.

"I was trying to talk him out of it at first, but then after spending the day with him, I thought it was perfect," Hammond said. "His personality isn't, like, 'I'm a big tough guy, and I'm going to shove you around.'

"His personality is, 'I'm a big tough guy, and I'm going to shove you, but I'll help you up and say, 'Oh, that was a nice try.''"

That smile will appear on a bust that resembles how Thomas looked as a player rather than his appearance today, which is much leaner and less hairier compared to when he was wearing an orange helmet.

"Joe's going to have more hair on his bust than he does now," Hammond said. "He'll have a thicker jaw line and a little more full jowl than he has now. He'll look like he did when he played, but there are things that never change — the eyes, nose and mouth and skull — so adding weight really isn't that big of a challenge."

The bust is in the final stages of a process that takes roughly 12 weeks to finish and is currently being casted in a foundry also located in Utah. It's one of four Hall of Fame busts assigned this year to Hammond, who is also creating them for Darrelle Revis, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley.

And when the one for Thomas is officially revealed on the stage at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium for the induction ceremony on Aug. 5, the hope is Thomas' personality shines just as bright as the bust itself.

Related Content