We all have dreams that at times feel unattainable. All of us know that if we continue to strive to make them come true, eventually we will achieve that which we sought. For Tom Howe, retired Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) grounds keeper, the dream has become reality.
Living and working in Napa, CA, Howe maintained both the Napa High School and Vintage High School facilities. One of his greatest achievements was keeping Memorial Field, a top-ranked facility in the country, in such tip-top shape for several years before the field was converted to synthetic. His job of maintaining the playing surfaces that the high school athletes played upon was more of a passion for him than a job.
In 1995, the Oakland Raiders moved back to Oakland, CA, from Los Angeles, CA. Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders Organization were looking for a training camp facility to house the team. One of the pre-requisites was to have a hotel close to the practice field. Finding a good playing field was easy, but finding one with a hotel close was not an easy task. Ultimately, Redwood Middle School’s practice field was chosen due to its close proximity to the Marriot Hotel (only a fence separating the two).
Tom Howe, a passionate Oakland Raiders fan, had felt the disappointment that all Raider Nation felt when the Raiders moved to Los Angeles, CA, in 1982. Then, he felt the excitement for their return to Northern California. Upon hearing that Redwood Middle School had been chosen, he realized that he would be maintaining the field for his favorite professional football team. This, a dream in and of itself, was just a small part of a greater dream about to come true for Howe.
In 2010, Memorial Field was converted from grass to synthetic grass. Howe could see the writing on the wall. He knew it was only a matter of time before his job would be obsolete. He decided to retire from NVUSD in 2012. In December of 2012, Howe received a phone call from the Oakland Raiders Organization. The Raiders wanted him to be the head groundskeeper for their Alameda Practice Facility. Howe’s work on Memorial Stadium before the conversion and his upkeep on the turf at Redwood Middle School had left a lasting impression with the Oakland Raiders Organization. He began his dream job in February of 2013.
Currently, Howe is renovating a portion of the Redwood Middle School field in order to prepare it for the upcoming training camp. The man known by his nickname, “The Dude of Turf,” will now be able to create and tend to the one thing he loves most, real grass, and he will do it for the one professional football team he loves best, the Oakland Raiders.