Marion Grice has his own Sun Devil football figure, decked out in his Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl uniform to commemorate his Offensive MVP award. Terry Richardson has one in production and Andrew Walter, the program’s leading passer in total yards and touchdowns will auction off two of his own in his Congressional race this fall.
These completely original, handcrafted figures, however, are not just for former athletes; they can be ordered by anybody who bleeds maroon and gold. That is if they don’t mind waiting a bit to see their order completed.
Dave Smith, founder of Cardboard Sun Devils, has a Facebook page showcasing his work and potential clients can add their name to the waiting list and get in contact with Smith via his page.
Smith, who grew up in the Valley is the product of two Arizona State athletes. His father played baseball and his mother was named conference female athlete of the year for her performances in gymnastics and track.
After graduating from Cactus Shadows High School, Smith enrolled at the school where he had been watching football games since before he was able to walk. Seven years ago he moved to Tulsa, Okla., where he works in the aerospace industry.
An avid collector of Arizona State memorabilia, Smith stumbled into the business of designing figures after seeing a customized Pat Tillman figure a little over five years ago.
“My brother Mike sent me a link to an eBay auction. It was originally a mass produced figure of another player in an NFL uniform, and someone had taken the time to turn it into the former ASU legend,” Smith said. “As cool as this was, the quality of work wasn’t that great, and they wanted way too much money for it. I then forgot about it.”
Last year, Smith saw more auctions that were offering custom figures and decided to commission a highly-reviewed artist to create two legendary Arizona State signal callers, Jake Plummer and Andrew Walter.
“When I received them, I was disappointed. I felt like this artist didn’t produce the quality I was expecting,” Smith explained. “I took this disappointment and turned it into ‘Hell, I can make these.’ I made model airplanes and cars as a kid, and have better than average artistic ability, or so I have been told for most of my life, and now I am doing it.”
Smith begins each figure when the client selects and sends him the base model.
“The most important step in making a figure look the best is to find a base figure that most closely resembles the player you want to turn it into. Finding a good match is essential in having a quality end result.”
After experimenting with his first Sun Devil football figure, Taylor Kelly’s 2013 all-white or “NASCAR” uniform that he wore against UCLA, Smith has perfected his art form.
In the meantime, I learned that my good friend and former classmate, David Spuhler, received the new and improved “NASCAR” Kelly and said it is “off the chart awesome!”
The pricing for the figures range from $50 – $150 depending on the job, but all figures undergo an intensive multi-step process to achieve Sun Devil greatness.
“When I receive the base figure, I disassemble it, prime the entire surface, airbrush the large parts, hand paint the smaller and more difficult surfaces, create a decal package, re-assemble, decal, cut in decals, then clear coat in matte or gloss finish,” Smith told me. “Other jobs require sanding, parts replacement (facemask, arms, pads, etc.) and or molding of original parts not salvaged from another figure.”
If you are a memorabilia collector or are looking for the one of a kind gift for the Sun Devil fan in your life, visit Dave Smith’s Cardboard Sun Devils Facebook page.
“The main thing to remember is that these are all No. 1 of 1. No two Sun Devil Football figures will be exactly the same.”