ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Even before the Buccaneer's big Super Bowl win, 72-year-old Vietnam vet Michael Freese painted Gronk and Brady’s faces on footballs.
“I still got a lot of detail to do in the face,” said Freese, an artist in St. Petersburg. “Brady is probably 30 hours, Gronk is going to end up about the same. I mean the detail is ridiculous.”
He used pictures of the two posed at the beginning of the season in the team's new uniforms.
It’s meticulous work that Freese has been doing for decades now — a passion he embraced on the side while he worked full-time for the state.
“I was an original 1976 Bucs fan when they first started in the franchise,” he said. “I painted a painting of Lee Roy Selmon, it’s actually inside. I did one for his brother Dewey Selmon.”
His talent is self-taught. He says he tried to take two art classes in college.
“It was art appreciation, I didn’t appreciate it,” he said. “There was a book about this big about that wide and about that thick, the most boring class I ever took. I got a D in it!”
In the 90s he painted a series of basketballs ahead of opening night for the movie Space Jam with Michael Jordan.
He’s also painted portraits for music superstars.
“That’s how I get to meet people you know like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill,” said Freese. “I painted for Garth brooks when he did for concerts in a row in Tampa.”
And he hopes to do the same thing this time around. He would like to hand Gronk and Brady their football portraits in person! He just needs to get their attention.
“When Gronk scored his first touchdown I was at my buddy's house and I go 'GROOOONNNNKKKKK!'” he laughed. “I think everyone at the stadium when it gets to where it can be full again if they all do that all at once it will be scary.”
That could work!