While much is made of Tom Brady appearing in his 10th Super Bowl – no other quarterback has appeared in more than five – Mr. Brady has a bit of catching up to do with George Toma.
Toma has participated in every Super Bowl … 54 and counting, as he prepares to punch the clock on No. 55, this one in Tampa on Feb. 7. Toma, too, is “legendary” as a longtime groundskeeper who preps the field for the game between the champions of the AFC vs. the champions of the NFC.
Another historical footnote: Toma is 91.
“When you have a Super Bowl on natural grass, you have to start a sod 18 months ahead of the game,” he told KMBC in a recent interview. “So this sod has been growing on the farm in Georgia for 18 months.”
Another significant factoid:
Toma is a Kansas City native and may have a slight rooting interest in the Chiefs, who will take on Brady’s Tampa Bay Bucs for the Super Bowl title.
“They asked me if the Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl, could they win,” Toma said. “I said with [Patrick] Mahomes and [Travis] Kelce, they can pull anything off.”
In the meantime, it’s all about the game and the field prep. Toma’s crews spend sometimes 14 hours a day on the field.
Toma’s career trajectory is quite impressive. He began working as a groundskeeper when he was 13 years old after the death of his father forced him to find work. By 17, Toma was the head groundskeeper at the minor league ballpark in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Eleven years later, in 1957, he became the head groundskeeper for the Kansas City Athletics of Major League Baseball.
When the Chiefs came to Kansas City in 1963, Toma accepted the double-duty role as groundskeeper for both teams.
Toma also served as the head groundskeeper for the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games, and the 1994 World Cup.
No wonder he is known as “The Sodfather.” Congratulations, young man.