Monument honoring NFL Hall-of-Famer from Rigby unveiled and dedicated at Trojan’s stadium
Published at | Updated at
RIGBY – A monument honoring an NFL Hall-of-Famer was unveiled at Rigby High School Friday evening.
Larry Wilson, who played for the former St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-1973 and pioneered the safety blitz, grew up in Rigby. He died in September 2020 from lung cancer at age 82. The monument includes a bronze recreation of a photo from Larry’s last NFL game. It also includes his high school and college graduation dates, Hall of Fame induction date and other career highlights, along with a statement he once made about achieving goals.
The monument was created by Stan Watts.
Members of the community gathered in the football stadium at Rigby High School ahead of Friday night’s game against the Skyview Bobcats from Smithfield, Utah for a program and memorial dedication in his honor.
The Trojan’s Head Football Coach Armando Gonzalez began the program by announcing that a replica of Wilson’s No. 7 jersey will be permanently retired and the Larry Wilson Sharpening the Axe award will be given to one defensive and offensive player every season who demonstrates they have sharpened their skills on the field.
Michelle Allgood Barber, Chair of the Honoring Larry Wilson Committee, said a scholarship in Wilson’s name, which is donated by members of the community, will be given to one deserving boy and girl senior every year.
“It’s based on character and decent grades, but someone who is perhaps in need and has maybe faced a challenge or obstacle in their life like Larry did (whose mom died when he was 8). It will be based on the characteristics that Larry displayed. He was kind, he was humble, he respected his peers. He was just a great guy,” Barber said.
In a world with so much hate, contention and division, Barber says it’s important to rally behind a person like Larry Wilson.
“It doesn’t matter what your politics are or what your religion is, (honoring a man like Larry Wilson) is something we can all come together on and I think that is so important for our community. We have the opportunity to wrap our arms around this and tell our children and grandchildren about Larry and his accomplishments,” she says.
When Wilson attended Rigby High School in the 1950s, Barber says he had 16 letters in baseball, basketball, track and football and later went on to play football at the University of Utah.
During the program, Manny Hendrix, the senior associate athletic director at U of U and former Dallas Cowboys player, said Wilson was “the greatest football player to ever step foot on the University of Utah campus.”
“Of the many records he held, some still stand today. But I think the most impressive record that he holds is (that) no other football player in the history of Utah athletics has played more minutes than Larry Wilson. He was a two-way starter. He started on offense as a running back and started on defense as a defensive back,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix mentioned U of U is finishing up an $80 million project to expand Rice-Eccles Stadium and Wilson will be the first member of a ‘Ring of Honor’ slated to be unveiled in the next couple of years.
“I hope his teammates from his 1956 (graduating class) and all of you from Rigby come down and be a part of that,” he says.
Following some remarks from Kathryn Hitch, a representative from U.S. Senator Mike Crapo’s office, Wilson’s son, Larry Wilson, Jr., spoke briefly. He told the crowd though his family lived in St. Louis for most of his life, his dad and mom (who was also from Rigby) never forgot their roots and were proud to be from Rigby.
“Rigby shaped their lives and made them who they were,” Wilson, Jr. said. “His buddies from high school — Dick (Broulim), Chupe (Brizzee) and Norm (Brizzee) — they meant a lot to him.”
Wilson, Jr. said one of his dad’s greatest honors was having the high school football field named after him in 1967. Today, the field at Harwood Elementary (the old high school) bears his name, though there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts in recent years to put his name back on the high school field.
Despite Wilson’s accomplishments, Larry Jr. says his dad was “just a normal guy” who “loved to fish and hunt and have a cup of coffee with somebody.”
“He was always there for an ear. Dad was a student, teacher and a coach. In everything he did, if he had a task, he gave it 100%.”
Prior to the unveiling of the monument, Jefferson County School District Superintendent Chad Martin announced Rigby City Council voted unanimously to rename East 1st North — the street Wilson grew up on — Wilson Way. He then read a letter from Governor Brad Little dedicating the monument.
“There are over 27,000 men who’ve played in the NFL. Just a few over 300 are in the Hall of Fame and one of them is from Rigby, Idaho,” Barber said to a cheering crowd. “The entire state of Idaho has a reason to be proud that Larry is from our home state and all of us from Rigby need to be prouder and say, ‘He’s from my hometown.'”