George Toma, the legendary groundskeeper of the National Football League or NFL, has never failed football players in keeping the grass green and ready for action.
For George Toma, the playing surface of the football athletes is as sacred as the church. The legendary groundskeeper has been keeping the grounds in good condition since the Super Bowl I in 1967.
This year's Super Bowl is the 55th time Toma, 92, will be setting up the ground. "The God of Sod" recently opened up to Today about his career and how the grounds impact a great playing field.
HIS EARLY WORK
Working on the ground is not new for Toma as he used to work at a coal mine in Pennsylvania as a child. At 12, he raked fields for the Wilkes-Barre Barons baseball team of the same state.
Toma, who turned a year older this month, started his career as a groundskeeper in Kansas City in 1957 then became the head groundskeeper for the Kansas City Royals and the Chiefs.
He was later recognized by late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and eventually tapped him to decorate the first Super Bowl for his outstanding efforts in groundskeeping.
KEEPING UP THE GRASS
At the time, Rozelle had no grand decoration plans for the Super Bowl I, so he let Toma do his work, considering the experience he had in Kansas City.
"The most important part of the sod is the soil it's grown on and the root system of it."
The 2001 Professional Football Hall of Fame awardee added that a steady playing surface goes unnoticed when it's done right. But if it was poorly done, it can be the subject of angry discussions and a source of injuries.
Toma and his crew are the people behind this year's Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team.
Toma has mentored many prominent groundskeepers who worked at several professional sports.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only 25,000 fans were allowed at the 65,000-seat stadium. Despite his age, Toma couldn't sit still and wanted to work.
Being a groundskeeper for the Super Bowl has its perks as Toma can see the football stars in person. He has been rooting for one football team, but he said he remains neutral.
Toma has mentored many prominent groundskeepers who worked at several professional sports. His only hope is that his mentees will provide players a "safe playing field."
Besides ground-conditioning, what netizens and baseball fans expect is the Super Bowl's halftime show. After Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's performance in 2020, singer The Weeknd graced the Super Bowl show this year.