Former NFLer and current day artist makes piece for HOF


Artist and Former NFL Star Jim Ridlon Helps Kickoff Fund for the Arts

Football as art is a theme very familiar to Jim Ridlon.  As a defensive back with the San Francisco 49ers (1957-1962) and Dallas Cowboys (1963-1964), Ridlon displayed the artistry of pro football in stadiums across the country for eight seasons.   Recognized as a dedicated “student of the game,” the Syracuse University graduate was also a devoted student of art.

Ridlon (left) presented his piece to Hall of Fame VP Joe Horrigan.  Photo courtesy of the (Canton) Repository.

During his six years with the San Francisco 49ers, Ridlon played every defensive backfield position.  In 1963, impressed by Ridlon’s versatility and leadership skills, Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry, orchestrated a trade that brought the defensive back to Dallas. 

After two productive seasons with the Cowboys Ridlon retired from the gridiron and returned to Syracuse to complete his graduate studies in fine arts.

As a youngster growing up in Nyack, New York, Ridlon, who struggled with dyslexia, used art and athletics as a way of expression and relief from the sometimes trying world in which he lived.  By high school, he had learned to deal with his dyslexia and began developing his artistic skill under an excellent art teacher.  Upon graduation, he earned a football scholarship to Syracuse, where he developed his artistic and athletic skills to a level that enabled him to have successful careers in both.

Ridlon as a 49er

Even after his pro football career ended, Ridlon-the-artist, never completely divorced himself from Ridlon-the-athlete.  Sport has often been the subject of his unique interpretations.  One of Ridlon’s premier works is the assemblage he created in 1986 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of "ABC's Wide World of Sports."  The 8x10 foot creation had everything on it from a Steve Mahre ski boot to a Harlem Globetrotter basketball.  The response to this work earned him and his assemblage a spot in the Smithsonian Institution.  In 1988, Mercedes-Benz, the corporate sponsor for the Outland Trophy Award, presented annually to college football’s outstanding offensive lineman, selected Ridlon to design a new trophy befitting the honor. 

Ridlon’s works also include assemblages for the 100th anniversary of Syracuse football, the 35th anniversary of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and the 20th anniversary of ABC’s NFL Monday Night Football, which is prominently displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The subject of a one-man art exhibit in Canton in 1998, Ridlon recently returned to the Hall of Fame city to deliver another distinctive piece of art.  Again, the talented artist combined his two loves, art and football, producing a unique piece honoring Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach.  The untitled piece (left) will be the feature object of a charity art auction being conducted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Cultural Center for the Arts of Stark County, Ohio.

Back to news