Brandon Hardin, MSU’s award-winning turf king

By BY MARK H. STOWERS COLUMNIST,

Good Mornin’! Good Mornin’!

He grew up like most of us – mowing and manicuring Mississippi Delta yards for our parents and grandparents and a few others.

The weekly yard work provided much needed spending money but for Humphreys County native Brandon Hardin, that time spent on the mower turned into an award-winning career. Hardin picked up his third (2003 as a student, 2015 and 2019 as the main man in charge) overall “Field of the Year” Award for his work with Mississippi State’s Scott Field where the gridiron Bulldogs call home.

The honor is given out by the Sports Turf Managers Association that consists of 2,700 men and women who massage and manage sports fields worldwide.

The Turf King, a 2001 Humphreys Academy grad, gives plenty of praise to his entire team that waters, mows, trims, edges, paints, caresses and keeps Scott Field as a shining beacon of perfect gridiron grass. Hardin is the Superintendent of Grounds / Sports Turf at Mississippi State University. He’s in charge of all of the sports teams’ turf and grass surfaces for the Bulldogs.

Each and every blade, every single day – all year long. From the football team’s home turf at Scott Field to the brand spanking new version of Dudy Noble Field where the Diamond Dogs call home.

He’s in charge of every other playing surface that has grass or artificial grass on campus.

Technically, he works for Campus Services but his division handles only athletic fields.

He won’t be giving out petunia planting advice around the dorms.

Oh, and he gets enough requests for “free advice” on lawns that he could run a full-time consulting service. His work at MS State keeps him busy around the clock so he politely declines those, so he can stay focused on his “big yards.” But it all began in Belzoni.

“I wasn’t even old enough to legally drive. But Bump Hardin (grandfather) was a judge in Humphreys County and he’d let me drive to Little League games in Belzoni in his El Camino,” Hardin said. “Everybody remembers the movie ‘The Waterboy’ where he rides the lawnmower everywhere. Well, that was me except I had a little red landscape wagon behind it with a mower and weed eater and trimmer and blower and all that stuff I needed. I had one headlight on my lawnmower and my mom could hear me coming down the road.”

After self-teaching himself the art of the mow, he got insight on the actual field painting from a high school coach.

“Benny McLendon was a coach at the time and he let me help paint on the football field and take care of the baseball field. When I actually came to Mississippi State in 2001, I didn’t know there was a major for Golf and Sports Turf Management,” he said. “When I discovered that with my background, I fell in love with it.”

He relies on a large staff of workers and students and when it’s a home game week, it’s “Paint Week” and time for any worker in maroon to get Scott Field ready for a Prime Time or afternoon national TV broadcast.

“It’s all hands on deck that week,” he said.

The paint for Dudy Noble and just about every major college or professional sports field comes from World Class Athletic Surfaces out of Leland – even Tiger Stadium at LSU. There’s been a few mistakes over the years. He once mis-painted the MSU Bulldog on the 45 and not the 50 and had to come up with a green grass color paint to “erase” his mistake.

“You can never artificially match God’s green grass. Doesn’t matter how good you are. But I got close. I covered up the dots and let them fade and nobody ever knew. I had a guy tell me that week, ‘It’s not how good you are but it’s how good you are in a situation where you have to cover something up.’ It’s funny now but I still remember that exact feeling when I turned around and that logo was on the 45.”

The Delta’s Award-Winning Turf King – Brandon Hardin of Belzoni.

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