Jim Zorn, Artwork and Molten Iron
You know how NFL coaches are. Always weaving stories about sculpture into their pre-game speeches. If you've heard one story comparing Rudy to Rodin, you've heard them all. But still, might as well ask the Redskins whether Jim Zorn has used his art to help them understand football.
"He's told stories before," Shaun Alexander said. "He recently told a story about molding stuff, molding iron."
Molding iron, huh?
"I did," Zorn confirmed. "I gave them a word picture last week about hot iron and how volatile it is. How we need to play hot, we need to play like hot iron. I talked to them about cast-metal sculpting, and what kind of experience that is, how hot it has to get for aluminum to melt and bronze to melt and iron to melt."
Um, hotter than an Ashburn practice field in August?
"A lot of other molten metals [are] pretty passive, you know?" Zorn said, mentioning the melting points of aluminum and bronze. "But iron, 2,900 degrees? Wheeew. It's very volatile."
By now, you're possibly wondering why it is that Jim Zorn knows the melting points of various metals for use in cast-metal sculpting. Simple.
See, he began his post-retirement coaching career still without a college degree, moving from Boise State to Utah State to the University of Minnesota, and promising his bosses at each step that he'd continue his education during the offseason. Then he and the whole staff at Minnesota got canned, and he began to worry that his resume was holding him back.
"I could not get another job," he told me. "Nobody wanted to hire a guy without a college degree. It was a little bit embarrassing. So Steve Largent made a comment, he got together with my wife Joy and he said while Jim has idle time he should get his college degree."
So Zorn sent his college credits to what was then known as Regents College, a New York school that was a pioneer in distance education and has since changed its name to Excelsior. He needed to take 22 credits in one semester, including four upper-level courses in the same subject area. Since he loved art, he chose that for his subject area, and one of the courses turned out to be cast-metal sculpting, which he loved.
"Tremendous," he called it. (The actual course work was done at Minnesota, although the credits then conveyed to Regents, where Zorn got his degree.)
But cast-metal sculpting also requires a special facility and a team of fellow artists, and by the following year Zorn had landed a job with the Seahawks. So he hasn't been able to cast-metal sculpt since he got his degree from Regents, but he still has some of the pieces, in his house and in the homes of friends. His players have never seen his cast-metal work, but that's not to say they're not familiar with his creative bent.
"Yeah yeah yeah, he's got a little artwork," Jason Campbell said. "I've seen some of his stuff in his office before. It's pretty good. He makes these mirrors and outside the mirrors there's like wood, like Indian drawings or something. He made one Redskins mural. I can't draw, but I need to come up with something. I just need something so I'm not stressing about football all the time."
This mirror, which Zorn said is "huge," is currently located inside the FedEx Field suite in which his wife watches games. After the season, he plans to have it relocated to Redskins Park. And after that, one can only hope, it will one day wind up in the Hirshzorn.
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