Weymouth artist’s Tom Brady portrait part of dig for new NFL SoFi Stadium
from Weymouth Rich Pellegrino got his goat – in all the best ways.
He is one of 22 artists from eight nations to contribute to an expanding mural in the Creators & Gamechangers Hall at the NFL’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium Park, the site of Super Bowl LVI in Sunday.
Pellegrino created the portrait of Tom Brady for the 600ft mural featuring the NFL’s biggest characters and game changers. So far, there are 34 such renders in the league’s new regional digs, which opened in September. Others include Payton Manning, Vince Lombardi, Bo Jackson, Bill Belichick, Jim Thorpe, Joe Namath and William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
The focus on Sunday will be on game day content, but Pellegrino’s portrayal could still distract in the wake of Brady’s recent retirement, abandoning the NFL of its most iconic star. The league made a video about the creation of the new portrait room and maybe the two-minute spot will hit the NFL Network closer to the game?
“They’re concentrating teams, I’m told,” Pellegrino said. However, he adds, “Brady is quite prominent in the video.”
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Brady, 44, may be the greatest player the league has ever seen. During his 22-year career, he won seven Lombardi Trophies, including six with the Patriots, and recorded the most wins, passing yards and touchdowns.
Pellegrino recalled last spring: “The NFL reached out to me and said, ‘If you don’t mind illustrating Tom Brady for us,’ I say, ‘Yes, please.’ Brady, the best of the best, was a huge honor.”
Pellegrino has been a lifelong fan, growing up watching Brady play at Gillette Stadium, 20 miles from his hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island.
“Being from that area and having been to so many games…as far as a milestone in my career goes, I guess that would be it,” he said.
He said the NFL asked him to create something fit for royalty.
“They think of him as Jerry Rice, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, guys on another level. So they are very careful about how it is presented. It’s probably the biggest pressure I’ve ever had.
Pellegrino came across the concept of “conqueror of all conquerors”.
“He’s the Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan of football players,” he said. “With that kind of Warrior King mentality and competitiveness, I wanted him to look like he was battle-damaged, but still strong, steady and ready to punch the opposition.”
The portrait shares a wall with Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson for the Rams, who will face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Brady wears armor and a burnt orange cape. He grips a ball, his eyes black on his cheekbones, striking a dynamic pose as if performing an action game. Embedded are nods to Brady’s accomplishments and legacy. The Patriots’ “Flying Elvis” logo and the team’s red and blue colors are pictured on his abdomen.
“I kept the Bucs stuff out of the body because 20 years with the Patriots is who he is,” Pellegrino said. Brady spent the last two years of his career as a QB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I put the Bucs (2020) Super Bowl ring on the middle finger because I think he’s a little bitter about the way things went.”
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Brady’s football clutches are sterling silver — like the Lombardi Trophy — with seven stars to represent each of his Super Bowl wins. The word “GOAT” is written on the shoulder, “3-time MVP” has a stain on the chest, and “6th round, No. 199” – Brady’s position in the 2000 draft – appears above the heart .
“It’s what he wears on his sleeve all the time,” Pellegrino said.
Additional New England nods were hidden in the illustration, but Pellegrino later removed them.
“They asked for some of Pats’ things to be toned down and some of the wrinkles removed because I made him too gray at first,” Pellegrino said with a laugh.
Brady’s portrait is not Pellegrino’s first large-scale project. He was commissioned by his favorite director, Wes Anderson, to create a painting used in the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. This piece, an Egon Schiele-style erotic painting of two women, was destroyed by actor Adrien Brody in the film.
“To my surprise, I had no idea this was going to happen,” he said. The film won four Oscars. Among them, one for the art department, including an individual statuette for each member of the team.
“Technically I have one, but what I have is a Universal Studios keychain with my name on it. I’m saying it matters.
Pellegrino graduated in 2006 from the Rhode Island School of Design and is a professor of illustration and comics at New England College in New Hampshire. He lives in the Idlewell area of Weymouth with his wife and two daughters, aged 5 and 7 months. He has worked for Blue Moon Beer, Marvel Studios, Xbox and the hit AMC TV series “Breaking Bad”. He also created a 75-foot footprint commemorating late NBA star Kobe Bryant for display in China.
“I’m going to work all my dream jobs,” Pellegrino said. “It’s definitely kind of pinch you stuff.”
Super Bowl XLVI coverage between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals begins at noon on NBC with NFL Films’ “Road to the Super Bowl,” followed by the pre-game show at 1 p.m. Kick off is at 6:30 p.m.
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Contact Dana Barbuto at [email protected]
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