For the last thirty years Michael Hopkins has called teaching his profession, and for the last five, The Jungle at Louisa County High School has been his office.
"He's taught me everything I know on the field, and everything we've learned, we've learned from him," said senior Quinn Parsons, one of Hopkins' students.
Hopkins is the turf manager at Louisa, and he teaches the advanced turf sciences class. There are only five schools in the state with similar programs.
The class meets daily, for about ninety minutes each time, and the students help maintain all of the fields on Louisa's campus.
"Typical day, you get your job assigned, say it's painting one of the logos on the field," says senior Bryan Stinnett. "You come down here, get the paint mixed up, make sure you've got gas in the paint sprayer. Get it all ready, get suited up, and just go to work."
"The kids and myself take a lot of pride in it when you know that 3-to-4,000 people are going to be looking at it on a Friday night," Hopkins says of the award-winning field.
In 2011, The Jungle was honored by the Sports Turf Managers Association as the best high school football field in America. This year, they earned similar honors for their soccer field.
"It's a pretty special feeling to know you are one of the outstanding fields across the nation," Hopkins said of the latest honor.
This time, it's even more special, because Hopkins is retiring Tuesday. At times, he spent seven days a week helping to maintain the field. Now, he's going out on a high note.
"He's part of the reason you come back, because you love learning from Mr. Hopkins and then you come back year after year," said Parsons.
"He is the heart and soul of Louisa turf, that's what it is, that's all I can say," added Stinnett. "Seeing him go is just heartbreaking."
Hopkins won't be completely walking away from Louisa. He will still do some part time work in the turf-management business. He also says he'll come back to The Jungle for sporting events, and trusts the new management will keep the field in fine form. But he says what he will miss most in his retirement is his students.
"I've really enjoyed working with the students. It's been a fantastic thirty years. Especially the last five years working with the turf students, where we could really see our accomplishments right here on the field. It's going to be hard to leave it."
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