By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — Covington is a special place as evident by the generations of people donating their time and money to make Covington Schools a better place for kids to learn and play the sports of their choosing.
But nobody – and everyone in Covington would agree – has given of his or her time more freely than Benny Wolfe over the past thirty-five years.
From cooking burgers and hot dogs for fundraisers to helping kids in need by paying for cleats, basketball shoes, track spikes or even spirit packs, Benny Wolfe has always been there to lend a helping hand to all of the kids and sports programs in need at Covington. He also hires kids in his garage over the summer – just to give them an opportunity to earn an extra buck to put in their pocket.
But it is his dedication and commitment to seeing that Covington’s famed football field (Smith Field) is freshly groomed and painted for each home game that has become his legacy – a legacy he never intended to have when he started helping the founder of the Smith Field Crew, Bob Huelsman in 1984.
For that, Wolfe was honored Friday night at halftime of the final home basketball game of the season with a beautiful four-foot by six-foot table proudly displaying the image of Smith Field under a protective coat of epoxy.
“If it wasn’t for Benny, I don’t know how long we would be doing this (painting the field),” said Bob Huelsman during the half-time ceremony. “We really appreciate all he’s done and all of the Bucc Boosters who helped over the years.”
Huelsman is the one who started the tradition of painting the football field approximately forty years ago.
“Mr. Craft gave me a call earlier this week and wanted to know if I would say a couple of things about the history of the Smith Field Crew and I’m sitting there counting the years,” Huelsman explained. “Pretty soon it’s like forty years ago we started this – it’s almost unbelievable. It was like seventy-eight or seventy-nine when we started, right at that time.”
In the beginning, things were very new to Huelsman and his first crew – which led to some assistance from a community member of Covington’s biggest rival, Bradford.
“Jack Besecker had an homemade mechanism from Bradford and he came over one time and showed us how to line the field,” Huelsman explained with Besecker in attendance to watch his grandson (Jett Murphy) play basketball as a member of the Buccs’ varsity team. “We appreciated that very much. After we lined the field we had numbers and other stuff to put on, but his machine would not do all of those things.”
Longtime Covington resident and former coach Frank Dunn was also a significant contributor to the Smith Field Crew in the early days and Huelsman made it a point to recognize Dunn during the ceremony.
“The first time we did the field – and this is no lie – we used Jack’s machine to line it, but to do the numbers and the hashmarks, we had to use brushes and cans of paint,” chuckled Huelsman with Dunn by his side shaking his head in agreement. “We crawled around in the grass and actually painted the grass with brushes. The mosquitoes had a good time with us during those times of lining the field.”
Things progressed in a hurry and eventually blossomed once Benny Wolfe joined the crew in 1984.
“Then it progressed – we finally got smarter and bought a paint machine,” continued Huelsman. “Frank and I – and there were other ones who helped from time to time pushing the machine around to line the field. We went to two machines, then three machines and now there are six machines and all of the guys who help. But during that time, I do want to say something special about Benny (Wolfe) because none of us wanted to know about how these machines all worked. When they broke down, Benny had to take them over to his shop and fix them all of the time.”
Over the years the Smith Field Crew has spanned several generations of community members and even former players.
But the one constant has been Benny Wolfe, who has seen to it that the field is prepared with pride for each Buccaneer team that takes the field on Friday night.
“I think the field has become the pride, the tradition and the fabric of Covington football over the years,” explained Huelsman. “Every time a Covington football player comes out on the field they feel a sense of pride. I also think that when other teams come here and go out on the field they feel maybe a little bit of intimidation knowing that they are in Covington playing on Smith Field.”
The pride the players have playing on Smith Field is very evident by the number of senior football players who volunteered their own service to carry the table out onto the floor for presenting to Benny Wolfe. It was their way to give back to a man who has given so much to them.
Dressed in their game jerseys, the players carried the table out to center court and placed it in front of Benny Wolfe as his wife Pam joined him for this much overdue recognition.
“I’m touched,” said Wolfe. “I never expected this. This table is beautiful.”
It is a beautiful piece Wolfe can use with pride – but in reality, it’s a very small reward in the grand scheme of things.
That’s because the biggest reward for Benny Wolfe has always been helping kids.
And people like Benny Wolfe is what makes Covington a very special place.