After submitting the winning application and essay in the 2019 Toro Super Bowl Sports Turf Training competition, Auburn University and turf management student Wilson Morgan is headed to the Super Bowl, the university announced.
Morgan, who is the first student from Auburn to receive the honor in the 16-year history of the contest, will venture to Atlanta January 27 and experience the week leading up to the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for February 3, as a part of the NFL’s Super Bowl grounds crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Morgan will be working alongside some of the best in the realm of athletic field management. NFL Super Bowl field director Ed Mangan, who also serves as chief groundskeeper for the Atlanta Braves, and George Toma, who has been on the grounds crew for the last 52 Super Bowls and turns 90 in February, will be two of the legends Morgan will have the opportunity to work alongside.
“This is an amazing opportunity to learn from the best of the best,” Morgan said, per an Auburn University release.
Throughout his experience, Morgan will get hands-on experience in turf maintenance, field lining, logo painting, irrigation maintenance, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and clean-up.
“Mercedes-Benz Stadium has artificial turf, so I’m looking forward to learning what’s involved in managing a synthetic playing surface,” Morgan said. “It will be great to have experience in that.”
In order to receive this special honor, Morgan and other applicants had to submit a 500-word essay detailing their goals for the future.
“It was basically asking where you saw yourself professionally five years from now,” he stated. “I tried to make mine as little about myself as possible.
Morgan added, “I’ve had some excellent mentors in my life who helped me discover my dream of one day becoming a football field manager, and I want to be that kind of person for others.”
Morgan, who is now a junior at Auburn University, attended East Limestone High School in Athens where he was unsure about his goals for a professional career before attending college. He flipped through a copy of SportsTurf magazine that he found in his greenhouse management classroom.
“I picked it up just out of curiosity, but when I started looking through it, I couldn’t believe it,” Morgan said. “I mean, I was a football player, but I had no idea there were people who took care of sports fields for a living.”
After he found out Auburn offered a degree in the program from his ag teacher, John Wilson, Morgan was enthusiastic, yet nervous about beginning his college career.
“I remember kind of worrying because I kept hearing that the average college student changes their major four times before they graduate, and I was thinking, ‘Oh no! I don’t want that to happen to me!’,” Morgan said.
Once he arrived at Auburn University, Morgan was welcomed by other students on the same career path. Austin Brown, one of Morgan’s classmates, welcomed him to a group of students preparing for a win in the National Collegiate Turf Bowl competition.
“Then I met another student who had a job with the Auburn Athletics grounds crew, and I knew I really wanted to get involved with that, so he told me to talk to Richard Wilt,” Morgan recalled.
Wilt, the grounds manager for Auburn Athletics at the time of Morgan’s interest, hired Morgan and later connected him to the Miami Dolphins head groundskeeper Tom Wilson. Morgan ended up spending the summer of 2018 as an intern at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
“I started there the day after they’d had a huge concert and left the week after the first preseason game,” Morgan explained. “One thing I learned there was that managing the playing field is a full-time, year-round job.”
For summer 2019, Morgan will be interning with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Morgan shared his excitement and enthusiasm for the trip.
“That will give me experience in college sports, the NFL and Major League Baseball,” Morgan said of the trip. “Plus, I’ve only worked with warm-season turf, but the Phillies play on Kentucky bluegrass, so then I’d have experience managing a cool-season grass.
“I’m a big believer in planning ahead, and when I graduate [in May 2020], I plan to have a job,” he explained. “So I’m doing every single thing I can do now to be sure that happens.”
Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.