Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times Troy Bevel works to spruce up Pat Parker Memorial Stadium's entrance for the Tigers and their fans.

Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times

Troy Bevel works to spruce up Pat Parker Memorial Stadium's entrance for the Tigers and their fans.

Football has impacted Brad Oliver's family for more than a decade, so when the opportunity arose to prepare Pat Parker Memorial Field for the coming season, he made sure to take it.

Oliver is one of four residents at the Macon County Jail who spent the last several weeks touching up the Tigers' den, under the supervision of Macon County Youth Football Coach David Phillips.

"I requested (to be part of this project)," Oliver said, noting that Macon County Sheriff Mark Gammons allows small groups to leave the jail and work on service projects. "I've got a son (Curtis Oliver) that will be a senior this year (and played on the Macon County High School football team for three years). My oldest son, Chris, graduated last year and started out with the pee wee league."

Chris Oliver, who played as a wide receiver and defensive back for MCHS, led the team last season with 22 receptions for 379 yards and five touchdowns. He was a 3-4A First Team All-Region honoree.

Curtis Oliver, who played as a running back and defensive back, contributed 45 tackles (38 solo), six pass break-ups and four fumble recoveries for the Tigers last season.

"We've been doing this now for 10-12 years," Brad Oliver said. "(My kids) love the game, and I've been coming up and watching them. It's nice to be able to give back to the people who have helped my family over the years."

The inmates work from six to eight hours each day over a period of four or five weeks to prepare the field, which sees them painting and retouching all corners from the entryway to the press box.

"We do a lot of general cleanup, whether that's cleaning and painting the bathrooms or working on the fences," Phillips said. "This is the first time with the press box that we've done a whole rehaul, inside and outside."

For Tony Smith, the difference from the start of the project until now is striking.

"It feels good to come out here and see how open (the field) is now to the public," Smith said. "At first, it looked old and outdated, but looking at it now makes you feel good. We're also happy to be able to come out and present ourselves to the community and hopefully prove ourselves."

Smith noted that he also appreciates being able to do something for the local students and said the experience was a positive one.

"Working with Coach Phillips and the others is great," Smith said. "They don't treat us like inmates. They treat us like people. We want to thank Mark Gammons for giving us the opportunity to come out here and letting us do a good job."

Other organizations lent their assistance as well, with Macon County Board of Education and the Macon County Schools maintenance department providing paint and supplies and the football boosters serving meals to the workers each day.

"I try to give them respect and give them a hot plate instead of a bologna sandwich," Phillips said. "These guys really work hard, and you couldn't bring anybody in without paying them thousands of dollars to work on the field. Financially, we've not been able to build a new field, and we try to take care of what we've got."

As a Lafayette native, Brad Oliver welcomed the opportunity to help save money.

"I'm a hometown kid, and this would have cost a fortune (to hire someone)," Oliver said. "It will also give the other schools something to talk about when they come in and see how the stadium looks."

The project also gave Brad Oliver a chance to practice an old trade skill and spend some time outdoors.

"In the jail, you get one hour of recreational time out in the rec yard per day," Oliver said. "To spend time out here every day is a privilege. I also painted for 12 years professionally. I worked down in Gallatin and Hendersonville on custom homes."

Although Brad Oliver has experience as a painter, when it comes to dividing up tasks, the group approaches the project as a unit.

"We all work together as a team," Troy Bevel said. "If one of us needs help, the rest of us will get up there and help them."

Phillips, along with stadium custodians Kenneth Newberry and Tony "Cheesy" Gregory, also helps the group keep track of what needs to be done.

"I'm helping David watch them as a volunteer," Gregory said. "He asked me to come out here and clean years ago, and I've been doing it ever since. (The inmates) have all treated me good, and I've not had any problems with any of them. My favorite part is helping out the kids, and I enjoy football in general."

Each fresh coat of paint represents another chapter in the stadium's history, which spans approximately 50-60 years. For Phillips and the others involved with the project, that upkeep is a way to show county pride.

"This stadium represents our county, schools, and the kids and alumni that have played on it over the last 60 years or more," Phillips said. "It's seen a lot of teams come and go, and some great games. This county's competitive streak ... it all starts right here at Pat Parker Memorial Field."