INDIANAPOLIS – Balancing firefighter-type hours and another job that will eventually be judged by thousands isn't necessarily keeping Ryan Feeney up at night.
It's a specific detail with his "side gig" that has Feeney staring up at the ceiling come bed time.
"It's one of those things where you are sitting down in bed thinking, 'Did I get his eyes, right?'"
That's Feeney talking.
The "his" Feeney is describing is none other than Peyton Manning.
Feeney, a firefighter by day, is the man chosen to sculpt the statue of one of the greatest players the NFL has ever seen.
The statue of Manning will be unveiled this fall, on Saturday, Oct. 7, the day before the Colts host the 49ers in Week Five of the 2017 season.
How Feeney won the lottery to be the man in charge of such an iconic figure began in March 2016.
As Freeney, and virtually every other sports fan in the state of Indiana, tuned into Manning's jersey retirement press conference with the Colts, one particular statement made by Jim Irsay had Feeney's mind racing.
"Jim Irsay (said) they were going to make a statue so then I was like, 'I want a piece of this,'" Feeney recalls.
Candidates from across the nation also wanted that tasty piece. They began contacting the Colts eager to have a shot at constructing a statue countless fans will flock to every year.
One of Feeney's most attractive qualities was his proximity.
Irsay wanted someone local and Feeney provides that with his shop a 15-to-20 minute drive from the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Feeney's experience in sculpting can be seen around the Circle City.
The Peace Dove Sculpture at the Indianapolis Central Library and the bronze eagle at the 9/11 Memorial are some of Feeney's work.
His latest piece is unlike anything he's ever been tasked with.
"I would say it would not even be in the same ballpark," Feeney says. "All those other ones were special meanings and they were smaller and fun to do.
"This one, being a fan of Peyton Manning and liking football, and just the location and everything else that has to do with this project…for what he has done for this city and the Indianapolis Colts, I've got to make sure I nail it. I've spent so much time on it, day in, day out. I've studied every aspect of him throwing, of him dropping back, taking the snap, throwing, the face, everything, I can't even compare it."
Another bucket list item for Feeney came earlier this year when a contingent of people flew to Manning to ramp up the sculpting process.
Manning chose the pose and Feeney has since met with several members of the Colts' equipment staff to make sure everything looks as real life as possible from the helmet, to thigh pads and other various uniform features.
Feeney says the hardest part of the statue process has been the head/facial region.
"Because you have to get the shape of the helmet right, his face, obviously," Feeney says. "On top of that, the face mask has to actually be forged out of 3/8th solid bronze rock, so it's not something that can be poured. There are several different types of helmets out there. Some people may not know that. After doing all the research that I did, I know the exact model that he's doing and I know that he has that protection, stripe down the middle and it widens as it goes to the back, to the American flag and the warning symbol.
"From the wrinkles in the jersey, to the stance of the feet, because we all know who we are dealing with. Peyton is not only a perfectionist, but he studies. He studies plays forward and backwards. I study pictures of him to make sure I've got it as exact as I could. I have had several critiques from other people and say, 'What do you think?' Before the name even went on the jersey, they said just the pose alone tells us it's Peyton."
In less than four months, Feeney and Manning will be together again for a moment that will cement the legacy of No. 18 with the Indianapolis Colts.
If there was any doubt, Feeney got the Manning everyone is so used to during the sculpting photoshoot earlier this year.
"(Manning) was very, very cooperative, but he was also down to business," Feeney says. "There's not many times that anybody gets a statue made of him. He wanted to make sure that I had all the right information that I needed and all the right poses.
"I'm excited and a little bit nervous to see what he thinks of himself."
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