Dustin Wilson beamed with pride when former NFL coach Dave McGinnis complimented the Springfield football field earlier this season.
“This is one of the nicest fields I’ve seen in a long time,” said McGinnis during the opening segment of MyTV30’s Friday Night Rivals broadcast, which carried the Clarksville-Springfield game on Aug. 30.
When he isn’t coaching football, Wilson doubles as the groundskeeper. And with help from his coaching staff and players, the Yellow Jackets maintain a playing surface that has received high praise from opposing coaches, media members and spectators.
The Springfield players take pride in the surface because they help paint and repair it each week.
“It’s the best field we’ve played on all year,” said junior quarterback Austyn Day. “It’s nice, the grass is nice. Some of the fields have a bunch of holes, and you’re kicking grass up. You don’t have any of that with this (field).”
Everyone has a job
Wilson takes care of the trimming three to four times a week. On Wednesday or Thursday, players volunteer to paint the hashmarks and numbers on the field. Participation is not a requirement, but most of the team is there to lend a hand.
“They don’t get to start (on Fridays) if they stay (after practice) or anything like that, Wilson said. “It’s just about helping out. They take pride in this too. They like how our field looks.”
But painting night is more about fun than work. Players and coaches get to joke around and spend quality time together.
“Coach isn’t barking at them to run or to execute,” Wilson said. “They’re out here talking about their girlfriends or the homecoming float they’re building. You can’t do that stuff at practice. It’s fun just hanging out and being together.”
Assistant coach Drew Wilson oversees the perfecting of the midfield logo. Fellow assistant Enoch Hill takes care of the ‘Jackets’ lettering on opposite 25-yard lines (He painted them on the 30-yard lines once, but no one noticed). Dustin Wilson handles the yard lines, using string to keep them straight.
On this Wednesday night in September, Cale Jones, Kevontez Hudson, Clayton Wells, Dustin Noble, Logan Leftrick and Kevarius Smith stick out the painting session until the end. The football-players-turned-artists spend nearly two hours meticulously painting the field.
The prep continues on game day. The freshman team puts down the sideline tarps during fourth block. Hill’s special education class helps with the setup of pylons and field goal pads. Volunteer Thad Dorris handles the inflatable helmet and the smoke machine.
On Saturday mornings after games, players return to watch the film at 8 a.m. and walk the field to fix divots with sand. Then the week of preparation starts all over again.
A timely donation
The land where the current Springfield football field sits was essentially a forest until three years ago. But the Yellow Jackets wanted an on-campus field. They played at Boyce Smith Field, located on the Springfield Middle School campus, until the 2017 season.
“We were trying to find a spot for (a new field), maybe down by the practice field,” Wilson said. “We were thinking about how to move stuff around. That got everybody’s wheels turning.”
Enter Springfield businessman Walter McCauley, who owns a 177-acre farm adjacent to the high school. McCauley agreed to donate 10 acres to the Robertson County Board of Education for Springfield to construct an on-campus field. No money was exchanged, though McCauley does have free game tickets whenever he wants them.
The stadium was finished in time for the 2017 season. It was dedicated during a 34-14 win over Clarksville on Aug. 25, 2017, and it appeared on TV for the Greenbrier-Springfield MyTV30 game later that season.
Wilson has made it his mission to keep the new field looking sharp. The surface was in near-perfect condition for each of Springfield five regular season home games.
“It’s just one of my things,” he said. “I like looking good and being good and having a nice field. It’s a little bit of a competitive nature, too. I want our stuff to look better than yours.”
The field is made up of Bermurda 419, the same grass found on many golf courses. It thrives best in warm conditions. An underground sprinkler system waters the field each morning.
Brown grass season is here
Springfield kept its field green through the final regular season home game against Greenbrier on Oct. 25. The unseasonably warm temperatures in September and October kept the grass in good shape, according to Wilson.
“It’s hot-weather grass,” Wilson said. “As long as it’s warm, it’s going to keep growing.”
Recent freezes have begun turning the grass from green to brown. But the Yellow Jackets are OK with playing on brown grass, so long as the calendar has changed to November and the team is in the postseason.
Springfield will have that opportunity when Jackson South Side (3-7) visits for the first round of the TSSAA 4A playoffs this Friday at 7 p.m.
“The grass goes dormant when it gets cooler,” Wilson said. “When that grass is brown, you’re doing good things. I like playing on brown grass.”