Wyatt McSpadden and his son Trevor talk about the logistics of getting football heroes together for the perfect photograph.
texasmonthly.com: What kind of conceptual information did Texas Monthly Art Director Scott Dadich give you when he presented you with this project?
Wyatt McSpadden: The goal for this series was to capture a sense of the legendary status of the players we worked with. All the athletes had established themselves as football greats. The idea was to show off how football is a part of life in Texas and how the state builds up these athletes and treats them with such reverence.
texasmonthly.com: Where did you go from there? Did you brainstorm settings in which to photograph these guys? How’d your son get involved with the project?
WM: Most of the settings were determined by where the football players lived. For most of the shots, we went to the players and then found interesting locations in which to do the pictures. Trever got involved primarily to oversee the organization and scheduling of the shots. He called each athlete and set up dates and times for the photographs. Having just graduated from college, Trevor fell into a pitiful job market and needed a job. I felt bad for the poor kid and hooked him up.
Trevor McSpadden: I was hesitant at first, mostly because I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend a month at work for my old man. Even as we went up to Scott’s office for the initial meeting, I was a little unsure about getting involved. As we went over what needed to be done, I saw how this was a great opportunity and would be an exciting project to be a part of.
texasmonthly.com: What was your role in the project? How’d you go about it?
TM: My role was limited mostly to phone calls. I called each subject to set up dates, times, and locations for each shot. I took pretty detailed notes so I could remember what was going on with each subject. Things fell into place easily in the beginning, but as the month went along, we began to have some scheduling challenges. For the most part, however, everyone was cooperative and excited about working with us. The most difficult part for me was asking some of the players to travel great distances for particular shots. I was timid at first, but gradually gained confidence and began to feel more at ease.
texasmonthly.com: Can you take us through the different groupings and setups? What were you trying to convey or capture with the images? Do you have a favorite?
WM: The photo at Sam Baugh’s place with the young QBs tossing the ball through the tire as Sam looked on was great. It captured the mythology of Sam’s practice technique and showed off the West Texas location we were shooting in.
texasmonthly.com: Where do you fall in the spectrum of football fandom? Are you a stat-spouting, die-hard football maniac? Do you follow the sport occasionally?
WM: We’re just casual fans now. My father is a die-hard Cowboys fan, so I grew up watching them play every Sunday.
TM: I’m not really a football fan.
texasmonthly.com: What was it like working with the various generations of athletes? How’d they interact?
WM: Each subject connected well with the others. The fact that they were all football players—and had made names for themselves in some form or fashion—ensured that the athletes knew of each other. There were a couple of shots that grouped together players who didn’t seem to have any similarities, but they got together and interacted well. Everyone was happy to be a part of the project.
TM: I was impressed by the bond they shared through the sport. At several shoots, I was sure that the subjects wouldn’t get along at all. For the shot of LaDainian Tomlinson and Ken Hall, I even went so far as to suggest to Scott that we change the lineup. I was sure that this hotshot pro-football running back would have nothing to say to a crusty old ex-high school player. But, when they showed up in Waco for the shot, they instantly connected and were honored to be around one another. When Ken told LaDainian about his high school rushing record, LaDainian was astounded. I could see that he was glad to have gotten the chance to meet this legend.
texasmonthly.com: Can you share some humorous anecdotes from the various shoots?
WM: In Goliad we were set to meet with Spike Dykes, R.C. Slocum, and Bum Phillips in the afternoon. Slocum and Phillips showed up right on time, but Dykes was a bit late. As it turns out, he had a tire blow out on the way down to Goliad. He walked in the door of the location we were at, looking a bit frazzled, and immediately Bum Phillips jumped up to give him a huge hug. Each coach was excited to see the others, and they had a wonderful time sharing stories.
Up at Sam Baugh’s place outside of Rotan, we had a shot set up with the younger quarterbacks, James Street, and Sam. Being older, Sam liked to lounge around the house in his worn-out wind suit. Before the shoot, Trevor went in to ask if Sam would put on a pair of blue jeans. As he made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Sam replied, “Hell no. I only put on a suit once a year, and I’m not doing it today. You can just take me as I am, or not at all.”
TM: Being around Sam Baugh was the funniest part of the whole shoot. He acted like such a grump, but it was plain to see that he was happy to have everyone out at his place. He barked at me once for trying to take his cap off, giving everyone around a good laugh.
Jerry LeVias had a little dog that ran around with him, which was hilarious. He is a pretty large guy and pretty tough looking, but when that dog was around, he turned real sweet real quick. He would feed it M&M’s. He probably went through a whole bag by the time we left his place.
texasmonthly.com: What was your favorite part of the experience?
TM: There were several parts of this project that I really liked. I enjoyed the travel, and it was great to interact with this group of legends. It was exciting to be around my old man for each picture; I enjoyed watching the creative process take place. Also, I liked the feeling of responsibility for each picture. I am glad to know that I played a small role in arranging this series of photographs, and I’m proud of what we accomplished.