In 1986, UMBC commissioned alumna Paulette Raye ‘87, philosophy, to create a bronze-cast model of the Retriever for the school’s 20th anniversary. Raye worked in a studio at Towson University, using a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Nitty Gritty as her model. The 500-pound, life-size statue was unveiled on December 7, 1987, outside of the Field House, now the plaza between the Administration Building and the Retriever Activities Center.
Ray sculpted a wax casting of her Retriever model Nitty Gritty before casting the statue in bronze. Its name, "True Grit," is actually the name of Nitty Gritty’s father. In an interview with UMBC Magazine, Raye said that she wasn’t exactly sure "why the mascot received that name [True Grit instead of Nitty Gritty] … other than it sounded bold and strong like the [school’s] team."
Chancellor Michael Hooker and Director of Athletics Rick Hartzell hosted the unveiling ceremony for the True Grit statue on December 7, 1987. Suggested by Chancellor Hooker and now a steadfast tradition, students rub True Grit’s nose for good luck. Nitty Gritty, the model for the True Grit statue, attended the unveiling ceremony with his owners James and Brenda Steward of Howard County. He even had the honor of tugging away the cloth to reveal the sculpture.