Millions of kids grow up with dreams of one day joining the NFL.
New York Giants head groundskeeper Rob Davis is one of the lucky few to actualize that dream, even though his path to professional football was less traditional than that of a player or a coach.
"I pinch myself every day walking into that facility," Davis said in a phone interview with Bleacher Report. "I can't believe I'm a New York Giant, doing what I love to do. Sometimes I just can't believe it."
As a youth, Davis roamed his neighborhood with his brother, looking for lawns in need of mowing. Back then, the brothers made a quick buck here and there, but Davis has since turned his passion for grass-grooming into a unique career. He is the Giants' only full-time employee on the grounds crew.
When the Giants opened up a new team headquarters called Timex Performance Center—since renamed Quest Diagnostics Training Center—in 2009, the organization hired Davis to be its head groundskeeper. This past week, Davis, also a member of the Sports Turf Managers Association, put the finishing touches on a Quest facility that will host its second consecutive training camp after the Giants moved home from the University at Albany last year.
"Last week was a lot of the final preparations for training camp," Davis said. "We painted—or striped—the field on Friday. Other than that, it's really been monitoring insects this time of the year, diseases this time of year, making sure the water is correct on the field so the grass continues to grow."
To see Davis in action, check out this video on the Giants' official website.
Playing fields take up 10 acres of the Giants' 26-acre practice facility. There are three full-size, natural-surface outdoor fields and one full-size, artificial-surface indoor field. There is also an artificial-surface outdoor field that is less than full size. And Davis presides over each blade of grass—real and faux.
"I make sure the fields are in NFL-standard condition," Davis said. "I make sure they're as safe as possible, as playable as possible."
The weather will be Davis' largest adversary this summer. A stretch of hot, humid days, which often plague NFL training camps, can quickly affect the condition of the playing surface. It's Davis' duty to always stay one step ahead of Mother Nature.
Outside of practice-schedule and weather discussions with the coaching staff—should we go inside, or will the field hold up?—Davis' job is one that goes unnoticed until something goes wrong. That makes Davis pro football's proverbial fly on the wall.
He offered a simple analysis of what he sees on a daily basis, as only a groundskeeper can:
"I was a football fan for years before I got the job. And now that I'm on the inside, it's amazing how much more—um, I don't know the word you'd call it—advanced or detailed or just...the amount of preparation these guys go through is just staggering. I would have never thought it was that aggressive or take that much time. It's unbelievable what these guys go through every day just to prep for the following weekend's game. The magnitude is just unbelievable."
Last January, Davis was somewhat privy to not only the Giants' practice secrets but also those of the Seattle Seahawks. Although his access was limited during Seattle's week-long stay at Quest leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, Davis couldn't help but notice the irregularity presented by New York's visitors from the Pacific Northwest.
"That was completely different, those two coaching styles," Davis said. "[Tom] Coughlin is very reserved and very quiet, whereas Pete Carroll is—you know, we heard music coming out of the field house that was louder than any music I've ever heard at that facility. It was a completely different culture."
Davis' love for a perfectly manicured lawn has taken him on an exceptional trip. He brushes shoulders with some of the NFL's biggest stars, witnesses their work ethic and possesses a perspective to which almost no one can relate.
Yet, of all the perks that come along with being a member of the New York Giants franchise, Davis' favorite is hilariously sincere: