On His Turf: Secrets Of The Colts Groundskeeper

Troy Glendenning grew up in Lebanon, Indiana. He was in his early 20s when the Colts arrived in Indianapolis. His dad had season tickets. Along the way, he got his foot in the door at the team’s West 56th Street headquarters – and he’s been there ever since.

Now the director of facilities and grounds, it’s his 20th season with the team.

“I kind of started out in building and grounds and then I took this over probably 10 years ago.”

It’s a job he’s perfectly suited for.

“I’m outside. I’m kind of my own boss. I know what I have to do. I don’t report to anybody who tells me, ‘Do this, do this, do this.’”

He’s got some other perks, too.

“I mean, who gets to wear flip-flops at work?”

Glendenning spends most of his time on the back of the property, tending to three acres of land that make up the two outdoor practice fields. Unlike the bluegrass in your yard, maintaining this grass is a fulltime year-round job.

“This is Bermuda grass. So, this is what they call warm season grass. It requires being mowed every day, every single day,” he says. “We fertilize every two weeks, where a homeowner would typically fertilize maybe once every six or seven weeks.”

He’s constantly resodding, reseeding, and replacing – in reaction to the conditions.

“The first frost, this grass starts turning brown. It’s still playable, but they need color – for video, for pictures. So then, it’s still Bermuda with an overseed of rye. And then I leave that until after all the OTAs are done, then I kill the rye,” he says. “And that’s when I try to figure out how much Bermuda comes back every year. Do I need to resod the whole field? Do I need to resod down the middle? Do I need to resod just little patches? It’s different every year.”

That’s because the weather in Indiana is different every year – and sometimes every day.

“It’s actually my job before practice to report to the coach. Field conditions, it rained overnight, let’s go on this field because it drains a little better, there’s a chance of storms coming in, whatever the case may be. Sometimes, I fail miserably – because of the weather people.”

Weather is one thing Glendenning can’t control. For everything else, he takes full responsibility. He takes his job seriously – and personally.

“If the field isn’t right or if it’s too loose, too slick, too whatever – it can cause an injury,” he says. “If we’re not on top of what we’re doing, it can cause a problem.”

“Is that stressful?” I ask.

“Oh!” he exclaims, then pauses. “I cringe during practice, I really do. There are injuries. But they could happen anywhere, they could happen in the parking lot. But I do worry, absolutely.”

Which is why he does everything in his power to prevent that. It’s a process that takes about three hours before each practice.

“We walk the fields and we make sure there’s no specific holes, there’s nothing that I know would cause it,” he says.

He sticks around during practice – not to watch the players, but to watch the grass.

“There’s no better test than people practicing on it. So then I can say, ‘Ok, it was a little too soft today.’ Or, ‘It’s too hard.’ Or, ‘I need a little sand.’”

The players don’t replace their divots and they don’t apologize for tearing up the field. But they do appreciate what Glendenning does and they tell him so on occasion. It’s not something he expects though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“Here’s how I look at it – it’s my job,” he says. “So if they don’t say anything, then I know I’m doing my job.”

But if you don’t think his job affects their job – think again.

“If they come out and see the field looking good, in their mind it’s going to play fine and they can go 100 miles an hour. If they come out and they step in a hole before they get on the field, what’s in their mind? ‘Oh, crap. What else is wrong out here?’”

But that’s not going to happen – not on his watch, anyway.

“They don’t even go out there until it’s time for practice,” he says. “I guess they trust me.”

For the Colts, it’s not just the work of 53 players that drives their season. It’s the cumulative effort of the players, the coaches, and the staff who put them in a position to succeed day after day, week after week, month after month…

And it all starts on the practice field.