Statue has more history than some may know

One tooth removed 15 years ago to free child from mouth

By Rob Sweeting - Anchor , Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The statue "Touchdown" has been guarding the west side of EverBank Stadium for more than 15 years.  He's never missed a game, and he's only been injured once.  That injury happened back in 1997.

"I remember it was one of the most unusual calls I had been to on the Jacksonville Fire Department in my thirty year career," recalled JFRD Battalion Chief Greg Roland.  "It's not often you get a call to the stadium where somebody's trapped in the Jaguar. So it was kind of interesting to ride the call and get there and sure enough there was a young man, a nine-year-old, with his head caught in the jaguar. "

That 9-year-old was Andy Wilkinson.  He, like other kids, love horsing around on the statue.  It was all fun in games that November day until his head got stuck in the statue's mouth.  Within minutes, it got the attention of the crowd outside and Jaguars team leaders inside the stadium.

"We were actually having a meeting in the stadium and someone came in, interrupted the meeting, and said, 'Oh my goodness this young boy has got his head stuck in the Jacksonville Jax Touchdown,'" said former Jaguar co-owner, Delores Barr Weaver. "So you know, I immediately thought, 'Oh my goodness, what in the world?' And someone said we all shouldn't run out there, we should let the officials take care of it. But I, being a mother, just couldn't sit there any longer. So I said, 'I've got to go but everybody else stay here.'"

By then, several fire units were on the scene trying to figure out what they were dealing with.

"Well probably the first thing we always do when there's a call, where somebody's trapped or potentially hurt, is cover the ABC's -- airway, breathing, circulation," said Roland.  "And once we figured out that everything was okay, there was no bleeding, no injury to the young man, we took a step back and said well how are we gonna get him out?"

Roland explained, "Well, I  think the first thing was can we really ease him out without doing anything you know by him moving his head, and we couldn't. We talked about, 'Can we grease him up? Can we pull him out?' And that was discarded because it was just too tight. We didn't have the room to work to get our hands to really grease him up."

Then, came the dental work.

"And then we started with our hand tools. Some of them were too big which we found out right away and then the decision came around to a smaller saw to cut the tooth out and that's ultimately what we settled on," said Roland.

But that would damage the 2,800 pound statue, which was co-designed by the daughter of the Weavers.  But on this day, damage to Touchdown didn't matter.

"This young boy was much more important than Touchdown's tooth because that could be repaired. But we don't know to this day how that head could fit in there," recalled Weave

r.  "Our main concern was lets get the young man out. We'll worry about the statue later. 

But everybody was so mindful that the jaguar was a symbol and we didn't want to tear it up unless we had to, and fortunately, we didn't. "

It was a slow process trying to free the nine-year-old, but after about an hour, his head was freed and the crowd cheered.

A lot has changed since November 26, 1997.  Andy Wilkinson is now a 24-year-old Administrative Assistant with a Media company out in Los Angeles.  Mrs. Weaver and her husband Wayne no longer own the Jaguars but they still maintain an influential presence in the community.

Many of the men who helped pull the then nine-year-old from the Jaguar statue have retired from the fire department, .but Greg Roland is still on the job. He was a captain back then, but is now a Battalion Chief.

And Touchdown, he's still on the prowl guarding the west side of the stadium, with all his teeth.

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