On the Job: Field of dreams

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTOK) - If you've ever been to a college football game, you'll see there are a lot of moving parts. But it's not just the players who are putting in a lot of work to prepare for game day.

We're focusing on the crew behind the scenes, working to make the field perfect.

The day before game day, the stands are empty at Mississippi State's Davis Wade stadium, but we're not alone. There's a small crew making sure every line is straight, the paint is even and there is not a single blade of that lush Hybrid Bermuda Grass that stands too high.

"It's all hands on deck with all the guys you see. It's a lot of moving parts out here," MSU sports turf superintendent Brandon Hardin says. "I've got four full time guys, and they're all over here today. We put this ahead of everything else for seven weeks out of the year for game days."

There's a lot of pressure to make sure everything is perfect. 61,000 fans fill the stadium on game day. That's 122,00 eyes - all of them looking at the same field.

"It's a lot of attention to detail," Hardin says. It's time consuming, but it's a learned trait. Nobody just shows up and can do a lot of this stuff. It's years and years of repetition to get to that point where you can do it."

Brandon Hardin's a member of the Sports Turf Managers Association, a non-profit, professional association for those who manage sports fields worldwide. He's been doing this for six years. I try to find out what I can do in a couple hours.

I start by painting lines down the side of the field and move on to operating one of the biggest lawn mowers I've ever seen.

It takes a behemoth to mow the field because around 60,000 square feet needs to be cut. For comparison, that's about six times the size of the average home lawn.

My final challenge: painting the logo in the center of the field. That's a painstaking process of slowly moving a hand-held paint sprayer just a few inches above the field.

A few not so straight lines later, Hardin has to fix my patchy work. It's a lot of sweat and about 300 gallons of paint per week.

When it's all said and done and Hardin comes out to the field on game day, he says it's only a moment of relief.

"A breath of fresh air that we're done for the week," he explains. "But even when we're done, we're not done. On game days, we work at least a 12-14 day. It's continuous. It's a lot of work, but it's fun."

If you have any suggestions for a career you'd like to see featured "On the Job," email me at candace.barnette@wtok.com.