By Whitney Baxter
Growing up in small-town Iowa, Trevor Clawson knew he loved agriculture and Iowa State University. What he didn’t know was he would find a way to combine those passions into a degree program that would lead to him painting NFL football fields.
Clawson, senior in horticulture and native of Ackley, Iowa, started his adventure at Iowa State as an agricultural education and studies student. A class trip to Iowa State’s football field caused him to switch his major.
“I instantly fell in love with the turf program on that trip,” Clawson said.
He quickly joined Iowa State Athletic Department’s turf team, working alongside former athletics turf and grounds managers Tim Van Loo and Josh Tvrdik.
“I’d go to my introduction to turf class and then go out to work at the stadium, putting what I learned in class into practice,” Clawson said. “That’s what is great about Iowa State – all the hands-on learning opportunities available.”
Some of those hands-on experiences have occurred in class with Nick Christians, University Professor of horticulture. Clawson said he is always learning “something cool” from Christians.
“One of Trevor’s strong points is that he is willing to try new things and take on experiences that others may shy away from because of the location or distance involved,” Christians said. “He will leave Iowa State with a lot of very valuable experience that should lead to a good job in the industry.”
Clawson has taken part in two internships during his time at Iowa State that took him as far away as the East Coast – more than 1,000 miles from his hometown. For his first internship, his academic advisor, Adam Thoms, associate professor of horticulture, got him in touch with Pioneer Athletics, a synthetic turf and natural grass paint manufacturing company that supplies paint to the Cleveland Browns. Clawson spent the summer after his sophomore year participating in a joint internship with Pioneer Athletics and the Browns, getting an introduction to what working for an NFL turf and grounds team is like.
This past summer, what started as just a summer-long internship turned into a semester-long experience with the Philadelphia Eagles. Clawson spent the summer months taking care of the team’s practice facilities. He then took the fall semester off from classes to help paint the Eagles’ football field and perform other field maintenance, building off the knowledge he’d gained in classes and while interning with the Browns.
His Philadelphia experience was capped off with being invited back to attend the Super Bowl with the turf crew as they watched the Eagles take on the Kansas City Chiefs in February.
“The Eagles treated me really well,” Clawson said. “It’s been a great resume builder, and it’s been fun getting to know people in the turf industry.”
His networking within the industry led him to his upcoming internship with the Kansas City Chiefs. Clawson said this opportunity will be a “step up” from what he’s done at previous internships. While his boss will be at the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, Clawson will manage the turf at the team’s training camp this summer.
Reflecting on all the experiences Iowa State’s turf program has afforded him, Clawson said it’s sometimes hard to believe it has happened.
“Sometimes I have to stop myself and ask, ‘Is this real?’” he said.
Following graduation in fall 2023, Clawson has his sights set on securing a full-time position on the turf crew of an NFL team. His internships in Cleveland and Philadelphia opened his eyes to a world outside the small town he grew up in, and he’s willing to go wherever the job takes him.
“It’s exciting because I don’t know where I’ll end up,” Clawson said of his post-graduation outlook.
Thoms said Clawson has prepared himself well for future professional employment through his internship experiences.
“You can tell from his work ethic in the classroom and visiting with his past employers that he has a passion for this career,” Thoms said. “He isn’t afraid to jump in and help when needed. He often asks questions and wants to know more about how he can improve.”
Regarding advice for fellow students interested in working in the turf industry, Clawson encourages them to be open to learning new things and willing to work hard.
“The biggest thing you can do is do the work and show up on time,” Clawson said. “You have to want to do it and be willing to do it.”