Ask any past or present former Airport High School football player who is responsible for upkeeping their equipment and uniforms.
The answer is simply LG.
Those initials stand for Lawrence Gardner. For 54 years, he has served his alma mater in various capacities. Most notably, he has held the title of director of football operations, equipment, and field house manager at the West Columbia high school.
Among the list of former Eagles who have benefited from his service is running back Duce Staley. He has also worked with every head coach at Airport since its inception in the mid-1960s.
For many years, Gardner has also been the school’s unofficial historian. He has kept a detailed computer file on every former player, from their helmet size to shoulder pad style. Gardner is so valuable to the athletics program that he was inducted into the Airport High School Athletics Hall of Fame. “LG is the glue that holds Airport Football history together,” said Airport head coach and athletics director Shane Fidler.
Gardner’s time at Airport dates back to 1969, when he started working in the equipment department at the old “Eagles Nest” as a student. He returned to his alma mater two years after graduation at the behest of then-head coach Don Richardson.
He has remained in the position ever since, even while serving in the Cayce Fire Department for 37 years. Gardner retired as fire chief but continued what he calls his “hobby” at Airport.
“Everything that a football player is issued is clean, is disinfected, is serviced to check for any type of problems,” Gardner said. “Everything from the helmet to the shoes. Everything.”
Maintaining, accounting, and cleaning all the Airport equipment means long hours for Gardner, especially in the fall. Looking over uniforms and equipment for over 120 players on the C-team, junior varsity, and varsity teams is as time-consuming for Gardner as the work put in by Fidler.
“I left out of here at 9:30 p.m., and he (Fidler) was still working,” Gardner said. “That man doesn’t slow down. He’s got the greatest wife on the planet.”
“LG spends long hours in the fieldhouse taking care of players’ equipment, making sure it is top-notch, and doing their laundry to make sure the players’ gear is ready for the next day,” Fidler said. “LG is a special piece in the tradition of Airport football, and we are very thankful for everything he does for our program.”
Maintaining cleanliness and ensuring the football players are protected on the field is one of Gardner’s most important duties. This goes from making sure all helmets have the proper inspection date to purchasing skull caps to utilize during practice to help lessen concussions.
“Coach (Les) Evans used to say when you give a kid equipment, would you give it to your kid,” said Garner. “And the bottom line is if I don’t think it’s good enough for my kid, it’s not good enough for yours.”
This year’s team will head into Friday’s home matchup with Fox Creek flying high with a 3-1 record, the team’s best start since 2015. When Gardner sees the finished product on the field on Friday nights, the Eagles are looking and performing well. He said he can only hope Airport continues to perform as well as he does behind the scenes.
“It is not often that someone can impact a school or program for the duration that LG continues to do,” Airport Principal Matt Schilit said. “His legacy will never be duplicated, and we are all lucky to continue to experience his dedication to Airport High School football and our student-athletes.”