This year marked several firsts for the Toro Super Bowl Sports Turfgrass Training Program. It was the first time a female was selected for the once-in-a-lifetime internship. And it was the first time a program intern had the chance to mow practice fields for the big game.

Toro and the National Football League (NFL) established the program in 2003 to recognize one student who has shown exemplary skill in turfgrass management. Each year, one student is selected to assist the grounds crew in preparation for the Super Bowl.*


When Iowa State University junior Georgeanna Heitshusen found out she had been chosen for the internship at Super Bowl 50, she says she was “bouncing off the walls with excitement. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Long Days of Preparation
Heitshusen, who is majoring in horticulture with an emphasis on turfgrass management, spent about a week working alongside NFL field director Ed Mangan, George Toma and the Super Bowl grounds crew at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.


She worked 12- to 14-hour days that started at 7:00 in the morning, sometimes continuing as late as 10:00 at night. Her tasks included painting lines and logos on the field, pulling tarps (often because of the lingering rainy season), and dragging the fields to stand the grass back up and remove dew. She not only worked on the field at Levi’s Stadium, but also on the practice fields at San Jose State University and Stanford University.

One of her favorite memories from the week was getting the chance to mow the two practice fields at San Jose State University with a Toro Reelmaster® 5010-H. “I’m the first intern who’s been allowed to do that, so I thought that was pretty cool,” she says.

Learning From the Pros
Another highlight was having the chance to meet turf professionals from across the U.S., Japan and the United Kingdom, including people from NFL and collegiate sports facilities. “It was awesome getting to pick their brains — they really knew a lot,” she says.


Although she initially took a bit of good-natured teasing as “the intern,” she quickly earned respect and was treated like a member of the crew. “I tried to keep my head down and work really hard so they knew I was serious about this — that I wanted to learn,” she notes. “I got some compliments toward the end of the week and that meant everything to me — just to know that I lived up to their expectations. That felt good. It made it all worth it.”

The Big Day
Game day was also an unforgettable experience, from putting the finishing touches on the logos to fixing divots to cleaning up the field before and after the halftime show. “I’m a Broncos fan, and my team won — so I was pretty happy about that,” she recalls. “I got to stand on the sidelines for the game, and it was really neat getting to see the confetti come out and everyone go wild.”

For Heitshusen, it was all about getting NFL experience and seeing how they do things compared to her other work experiences — which include being on the grounds crew at Jack Trice Stadium (the home of Cyclone football in Ames, Iowa) and contributing to the installation of a baseball and softball infield heating system during an internship at Michigan State University. She also interned with the Iowa Cubs baseball team in Des Moines, Iowa.

What surprised her about the Super Bowl crew? “The thing that blew my mind was the level of detail that they put into all of their work, from the mowing to the logo painting — everything was so crisp and perfect,” she says.


Looking Toward the Future
Now that the experience is over, Heitshusen is looking toward the future with an impressive addition to her resume. “I hope my experience at the Super Bowl shows future employers that I’m competent and responsible — that I’m driven and goal-oriented enough to take on projects like that,” she notes. “I hope to set an example for other students as well. You have to put yourself out there. Even if you’re nervous, you just have to go for it sometimes and it can turn out to be an amazing experience.”

This is the 14th year that Toro and the NFL have provided this opportunity for students in the field of turfgrass management. We congratulate Georgeanna Heitshusen on her selection this year — and we look forward to continuing to provide opportunities for emerging professionals in the turfgrass industry like her to further develop their skills.

* Super Bowl is a registered trademark of the NFL.