Football, ducks, art

What do faith, family, football and duck hunting have in common?

Not much.

At least not until Mandeville artist Michael Hunt had the idea for what he calls his most unique project to date: “The Southern Fleur de Lis” print incorporating those four elements, and signed by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and “Duck Dynasty” TV show star Phil Robertson.

“Just the anticipation of his (Payton’s) return (to coaching after a season’s suspension) being at such a fever pitch, that I wanted to do something with him,” Hunt said from his Harahan studio. “ But he wasn’t doing anything (as far as special projects) because he was so hyperfocused on the season.”

However, the agent who Payton and Hunt share arranged for the coach to hear the artist out.

“Sean said, ‘You know that show (‘Duck Dynasty)’ really has become my favorite show. I got hooked on it during the suspension,’” Hunt said. “He says, ‘I love that show. Michael, I have to be involved in this project. I still don’t understand how you’re going to make faith, family, football and duck hunting go together. I can’t even imagine, but I’m in.’”

Hunt explained that initially the artwork was to be a comedic piece.

“So much so that the original concept was a mallard duck holding a football, and it was going to be kind of in a Heisman-type trophy pose, let’s say a common football pose,” the artist said. “But after about a month I just couldn’t make it work.

“Under the gun one night I just came up with the idea to do the fleur de lis that’s half camouflage and half gold and then do it in an elegant way with all this wrought iron in the background, with these gold embossed ducks. I took the exact opposite approach. That’s what’s going to make it crazier,” he said. “When people hear about it they’re going to think it’s got to be some goofy cartoon. And then when people see it, it’s going to be even more unique because it’s a piece that your wife would like.”

Hunt worked with the Robertsons last year on a Duck Commander print, and has become good friends with the family, visiting Phil and Kay Robertson’s home and the Duck Commander offices often in northeast Louisiana. At the business, he noticed how many college football teams have sent the Robertsons helmets with messages telling them what big fans they are. From there came the idea for a second print.

“I thought instead of just doing one piece I’d do another one with a camouflage football helmet, the same exact piece but for everybody that wasn’t in Louisiana.

“Really, it would work anywhere,” Hunt said of the second poster which exchanges the fleur de lis for a forward-facing camouflage helmet devoid of any team logos.

“When Phi saw it, he said, ‘You know Hunt, I got to tell you, you did it. You did it again with this,’ ” Hunt said.

The project took another twist when Saints tight end Jimmy Graham heard about it.

“Jimmy Graham said, ‘I love that show, too. I want to be a part of this,’” the artist said.

So, the special edition and artist proof copies of the poster also are hand-signed by Graham. “We’ve had other people ask (to autograph the lithographs), but there’s no room,” the artist said, laughing.

“Phil told me when he was signing prints, ‘You know the best part about this is that it’s faith, family,’” Hunt said. “‘One of the successes of the show, and we have never apologized about it, is the fact that we believe in God. Family is everything to us,’ and he says, ‘You know, you have found a way to put all that together.’”

And Hunt’s also responsible for getting Payton and the Robertsons together, at least over the phone. The coach has invited the Robertsons to New Orleans for a game, and the Robertsons have offered to take Payton and quarterback Drew Brees hunting.

No doubt they’ll talk football, too, as Phil Robertson was a first-string quarterback at Louisiana Tech in Ruston. His backup was fellow Louisiana native Terry Bradshaw.

“I am the true New Orleans Saints fan of the family,” Kay Robertson said by phone from home recently. “Everybody else joins when it’s convenient for them, but I’ve been a fan for 30 years. I want that noted. I’m very loyal.”

Phil Robertson, who has a master’s degree from Tech, said he’s never regretted not pursuing an NFL career.

“When I weighed it — running from large violent men for a living, or me chasing ducks or big men chasing me — I thought, you know, as far as the stress factor, I’ll chase the ducks. I’m glad I went with the ducks. It’s been a lot more peaceful, put it that way.”

Prices for the helmet prints start at $150, and the fleur de lis prints cost $250 and more. Part of the proceeds will benefit Katrina’s Angels. The posters are being sold solely through the website below.