HGTC students drafted for NFL internship

When the Jacksonville Jaguars square off against the New York Giants at home Nov. 30, some Horry County prospects will join them.Well, they won’t actually take the field that day. They’ll learn how to take care of it.A group of six Horry-Georgetown Technical College (HGTC) students has been selected to participate in a Turf Crew Mentorship Program, which offers an inside look at what a grounds crew goes through on gameday.“I’m interested to see how they put everything together and what exactly it takes,” said 20-year-old Dylan Gress, a second-year student in sports turf management at HGTC. “I kind of just want to see what their days are like.”Through the one-day program, students learn about prep work and how the field is constructed — everything from grass to drainage. Students also receive a t-shirt and are allowed to work the field goal nets.“We’re trying to really give these guys insight into different aspects of jobs around and in the stadium,” said Mark Clay, sports field and grounds manager at EverBank Field.The staff at SMG Jacksonville, which manages the facility, learned about HGTC’s golf and sports turf management program because of the work Horry students had done at Web.com golf events in Florida. Clay said the EverBank Field program not only exposes students to gameday life in the NFL but also may open doors for future employment. “[We’re] just trying to help out the community and teach kids that this is available,” he said. “It may be a career for some of them.”HGTC staff quickly signed up for the experience, which they say is the first major offering for sports turf students.“That’s a tremendous opportunity for them,” said Rick McGuinnes, who oversees the college’s golf and sports turf program. “They’ll be able to observe and have some guest speakers and obviously the fun part will be staying for the football game.”The college’s academic program offers two tracks: one that focuses on golf courses and another that deals with other sports fields.HGTC’s golf course track is already a household name in the golf industry. Every year, six of HGTC’s top students travel to Augusta National to participate in the overseeding project for The Masters.But as the local golf industry has declined, McGuinnes said the number of athletic fields has grown, most recently in North Myrtle Beach.“Before those fields were even built, they were booked for the season,” he said. “As golf has slowed down, sports turf has grown tremendously in this area.”For Gress, his dream is to land a head groundskeeper position at a professional baseball stadium. He said he’s excited about seeing the NFL action, but his passion lies with Major League Baseball.He played for his high school team in Mt. Pleasant, and since he knew he couldn’t make it to the big leagues as a player, he still wanted to be part of the game. “It was just something about working hard all day and then, at 7:05, when first pitch comes, you see what you worked for,” he said. “The gratification I don’t really think you can get with any other career.”