Preparing a field fit for champions

As you’re watching the 2022 Super Bowl this Sunday, pay special attention to the field. An Iowa State alum had a role in preparing it for the big game.

TJ Brewer (’04 horticulture) is the head groundskeeper at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals. The end of his fourth season maintaining the Bengals’ field will be highlighted with a trip to Los Angeles, California, where he will help prepare the field at SoFi Stadium for the Super Bowl matchup between the Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams.

Brewer will head to California Feb. 8 and stay to work the big game Feb. 13.

“Never would I have thought I’d be working on a National Football League field. Never would I have thought I’d be preparing the field for the Super Bowl,” Brewer said. “It was never really on my radar.”

For Brewer, most of his career has been spent working on baseball fields. He spent several years working for the Burlington Bees baseball team, and has experience in sports turf management working for the City of St. Louis Public Schools in St. Louis, Missouri, The University of Memphis Athletic Department, Honey Creek Golf Club in Boone, Iowa, and the Iowa State Athletics Department.

“The amount of work and effort that goes into preparing any field involves a lot of unknown, behind-the-scenes work,” Brewer said. “The fact that we’re creating something so many people enjoy – from the players to the fans – is really awesome.”

Field prep is a year-long process. Once the Bengals’ season ends in late winter, the field is allowed to rest for several weeks as winter wraps up. As soon as the weather begins to warm up in the spring, Brewer and his team of four full-time employees and two seasonal employees are back at it making preparations for the Bengals to begin practicing in April. The team will use the facilities from April through mid-June and again from the end of July through mid-February.

“There are a lot of small windows where we are actively working on the field, but every day you’re really preparing for the same day next year,” Brewer said.

In addition to the stadium field work, Brewer and his team are responsible for maintaining the 6.5 acre practice field, landscaping around the stadium and snow removal.

He said his time at Iowa State gave him a solid foundation of technical and scientific knowledge in turf grass management to help him find success in his career. To go from not really knowing what he wanted to do professionally while in college to being one of 32 head groundskeepers for the nation’s NFL teams is “really cool.”

“You walk out onto the field from your office and realize the scale of your work. It’s very humbling,” Brewer said.