Since 1981, Southern University’s A.W. Mumford Stadium has had six head football coaches on its sidelines, been expanded and improved, and been the site of triumph and heartbreak.
There’s been one constant: Donnie Williams.
Williams, 55, started working at Southern University in 1981, essentially moving across the street from Southern Laboratory High School to A.W. Mumford Stadium. His job was taking care of the university’s grounds, but it didn’t take long for one particular patch of grass to become a big part of his responsibilities.
In fact, he’s so good at it, after retiring in 2014, he was coaxed back to assist Leland Castle, who had taken on the job of overseeing the field.
“LSU has a crew. It’s just two of us,” Williams said. “We both know what to do, so we don’t have to teach (anybody).”
The stadium grass is cut every three days and rolled to remove divots. The football team sometimes practices there, and it also hosts Southern Lab football games. The band also practices there sometimes, Williams said.
“It gets a lot of wear and tear,” he said.
The initial marking happens before the season and includes sidelines, yard lines, hash marks (for both college and high school, since Southern Lab plays its home games at Mumford), numbers at 10-yard intervals and decorative symbols.
It takes 70 gallons of a water-paint mixture. That first marking takes about four hours, Williams said, because everything must be measured and defined by string before painting begins. It takes about 2½ hours to touch it up in later weeks.
Williams said he uses stencils for the lettering in the end zone and does the stylized SU logo freehand at midfield.
Of course, taking care of the football field wasn’t Williams’ only job at Southern. He tended to the baseball field during that season, which he also continues to do, and has worked in various capacities on campus — driving a van transporting students between their classes and off-campus housing, and striping the streets and parking lots. He has helped transport the Jaguars’ football equipment to road games, opened the F.G. Clark Activity Center and handled paying game officials for basketball games, marked off football tailgating spots and helped clean up the stadium after games.
After football season ends, Williams will take a couple of months off before returning to take care of the baseball field. “I love it,” Williams said. “I bleed blue and gold. I’ve been around here all my life.”