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Corey Pane’s talents paid tribute to his hero with the feet of Antonio Brown

Pat Tillman Foundation Communications   |   By Jill Walsh, Communications Manager   |   February 7, 2017
Tillman Cleats
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown paid tribute to Pat Tillman when he wore custom-pained cleats by artist Corey Pane during the team's Nov. 13 game

Growing up in Wethersfield, CT, artist Corey Pane has been dabbling in art his whole life. Always having a passion for drawing, it wasn’t until towards the end of high school when he started drawing a lot of album covers and posters for bands.

“Music is such a huge part of my life so I was always involved and had an interest in bands and my art just took off on its own,” said Pane. “I did a lot of different album covers and posters already when I was attending school at the University of Hartford, where I graduated with and illustration degree.”

You may have never heard of Corey Pane until recently when his artistry was in the national spotlight after he painted a tribute to Pat Tillman on a pair of cleats worn by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown that later went viral.

HOW DID THE CLEAT PROJECT WITH ANTONIO BROWN COME TO FRUITION?

 “Antonio and I have known each other for about six years now as we met when he was coming into the league. He saw some of my artwork online and he asked me to do a painting of him and his son and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Earlier this year I was in Pittsburgh about a week before the season started and he was talking about painted cleats and being able to get some artwork on the field with him so he could be creative while sending a personal message. I painted a couple of old pairs of cleats along with a couple of wristbands that he wore and the cleats went over pretty big and we decided to keep it going and it blew up into something we never expected.”

Pane painted a pair of cleats for Brown for almost every game during the 2016-2017 NFL season but the tribute to Tillman on a pair of cleats carried special meaning.

WITH DESIGNING A NEW PAIR OF CLEATS EVERY WEEK, IS THERE A SPECIAL KIND OF PAINT OR SOMETHING YOU DO IN PARTICULAR TO HELP YOUR ARTWORK WITHSTAND THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS?

 “I try to put a coating on the cleat after I paint it then leave it up to the coating. I know they’ll more than likely get messed up or crack but I guess for me it’s more about the process of creating it and then once it’s out and seen and gets messed up, it doesn’t matter to me. I paint my cleats a little different in the fact I use the same acrylic paint as I would if I were painting on a canvas and look at it in the same way. It’s more about the experience than anything.”

 HOW DID THE IDEA OF PAT TILLMAN ON A PAIR OF CLEATS COME ABOUT AND COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN THE IMPORTANCE OF WORKING ON SUCH A PROJECT WITH HIM?

 “Antonio leaves it up to me to do whatever I want with the cleats so we’re always trying to come up with new ideas. We try to make it specific to where games are played or what type of campaign was taking place during the season. For example, when Jose Hernandez of the Florida Marlins passed away, Pittsburgh played in Miami so we did a cleat tribute to Hernandez. Since it was Salute to Service month in November and Pat Tillman has always been a hero of mine, I thought it was fitting to do a tribute to Pat.”

WHAT WAS ANTONIO’S REACTION ONCE YOU FINISHED THE PROJECT OF THE TILLMAN CLEATS?

 “He was really proud to wear them and loved them. He felt the same way about Pat as I did and really wanted to honor him as a person and was excited to get them on the field and wear them.”

 WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE ABLE TO PUT YOUR ARTWORK OF PAT ON DISPLAY THROUGH ANTONIO’S CLEATS?

 “It was very special because most of the cleats I was trying to keep related to personal meanings to Antonio, like his kids on cleats. I felt Pat’s tribute on the cleats was perfect timing and just worked out to be able to honor someone I respect and admire so much as he was a personal hero of mine growing up.”

Pane’s artwork on cleats has taken on some legs of their own as his work has gained interest from other NFL players like Steelers’ linebacker Ryan Shazier whom he painted a lot of cleats for towards the end of the season in addition to New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill’s Cleats for Causes during week 13 of the NFL season. Pane’s artwork looks to stick around as other players have already reached out to him to start generating ideas for cleats next season.

Though painting cleats is great, especially when you’re in the spotlight of an NFL game, but Pane’s art that he is most proud of displaying is that which has a meaningful message behind it like for an environmental cause.

Antonio Brown’s popular Tillman tribute cleats were recently on display at the NFL Experience as part of the events surrounding Super Bowl LI. Antonio will be donating the cleats to the Pat Tillman Foundation, which will be used to raise funds for our Tillman Scholars carrying forward Pat’s legacy.

An honor Pane does not take lightly, “Knowing the cleats will go to help veterans is so much more important to me than any art that I can do. If those cleats can make a difference and help other people and causes, then that’s even better and I couldn’t ask for more.”

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