For the past 15 years, Tony Leonard has overseen the maintenance of the stadium, practice fields and landscaping as the director of grounds for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Where are you from? I grew up in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Gettysburg.
What college did you attend? I attended Penn State and graduated in 1997 with a degree in turfgrass science.
How did you get your start in the sports industry? I started working on golf courses, but changed my career path when I started working on the sports fields at Penn State and Beaver Stadium.
Any other jobs in the sports industry prior to the Eagles? Following my time at Penn State, I worked for the Baltimore Ravens and a sports construction company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
How has technology impacted your career? It has and continues to impact our industry. Automated irrigation systems have been around forever, but now they can be controlled by a cell phone. Soil heating systems have been around the NFL for about 25 years. Now growth lights are becoming the next big thing. European soccer pitches have been using these lights for some time now, but are slowly making it into the U.S. markets. Green Bay is the only field that has a dedicated system now, with a handful of us using them on much smaller areas.
Who is role model/mentor in business? Bob Hudzik at Penn State University and Vince Patterozzi were two mentors that I learned from. Bob was my first introduction to sports turf and one of the best in the business. He did a lot with little and always had one of the best fields in college football. Vince Patterozzi was the head groundskeeper with the Ravens and opened the door for me to start with the Eagles. He was an "outside the box" thinker. The ideas were never textbook solutions, but for what he had to accomplish, it made the most sense and worked.
What is the best part of your job? Without a doubt, being part of the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles. Having the tools necessary to do your job and put a quality product for the players and fans to enjoy is rewarding for my staff and I. Secondly, it's being outside. I enjoy being outside especially in the spring and fall.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The weather. It's unpredictable and the changes from month to month can be extreme. It dictates everything we do from painting, fertilizer applications, re-sodding, mowing, planting seed, etc. We constantly monitor conditions for the day and for the upcoming week.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in sports? The best advice is to pick up the phone and make contacts. Be willing to put the time in and work hard. It will pay off in the end.
Were you once an athlete yourself? I played football and baseball through high school and football for a year in college, at Kings College in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
What is your favorite part of gameday? As soon as the field is set with pylons and sideline mats and no one has been on it yet. It's the best it will look for the day.
Favorite Eagle of all time and why: Brian Dawkins. When I started, he was a rookie. To see him develop into one of the best was exciting to watch. He played the game with so much passion and left everything on the field. Off the field, he was one of the nicest people to talk to or get feedback from.
Favorite memory on the job: Opening up the stadium against Tampa Bay in 2003. The outcome was not what we wanted, but the excitement surrounding the new stadium and the ceremonies were awesome. It was a long time coming and exciting for our grounds staff to change the stigma of having one of the worst fields in the NFL at the Vet to one of the best at Lincoln Financial Field.
Favorite Eagles game: It would be the NFC Championship Game in the 2004 season. I have never been so happy to see a stage rolling across the field.