My First Job: Matt Limegrover
June 21, 2013
Summer for college students is filled with picking up a job and earning some extra spending cash. With that being said we thought it would be fun to ask our coaches about jobs they have had in and out of football. We start our "My First Job" series with offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover.
GopherSports: Coach, thanks for taking the time. What was your first job ever and how did you get it?
Matt Limegrover: I was 16 and I just got my work permit through the state (when he lived in Pittsburgh, Pa.). My mother worked at a boutique furniture store, and they needed somebody to help with deliveries for the summer. Rather than sitting in the basement and drinking Coke, playing video games, watching re-runs of God knows what, she got me the job and figured it would be good for me. I was always the guy on the heavier end of the sleeper sofas and the big sectionals. It was good for me, got me out of the house, and I was out and active. It definitely taught me the value of education, because I didn't want to be moving furniture my whole life. It made school that much more important, for sure.
GS: Tell us a good back-breaking furniture moving story.
ML: When you have a person in a fourth-story apartment who has bought a huge sleeper sofa for when their grandkids come into town, and there's no elevator and you're going up a little staircase--sleeper sofas are the pox on delivery guys' lives because they're so heavy. Basically, I would get underneath it and we'd start going up the steps. It would literally be on my back and I'd be backing up the steps with it on my back while the other guys positioned it. We'd get to a landing, put it down, slide it over, start it up the next set of steps until we got it delivered.
On the flipside, it was nice when it was a ranch house and you got there and it had a nice big, wide front door and it was going in the living room just to the left. But when the little old lady who had grandkids coming and she was on the fourth floor of an old apartment building without an elevator, those are the ones where you had to pack a lunch and be ready for a long day.
GS: Do you remember how much you got paid?
ML: Oh, boy. It wasn't nearly enough for the work I did. But seeing as how the owner of the store was my mom's best friend, I think that she got pretty good value that summer.
GS: That had to be good conditioning for high school football, though.
ML: Absolutely. I was probably more tired leaving work than I was doing the workouts for the team. But I made some good friends, some people I still keep in contact with, some of the other guys who were delivery guys. It's something that's kind of a rite of passage. It's one of those things. I did that. I also built in-ground swimming pools every summer during college. It was always something physical. They always looked at me and said, `Hey, you're the guy who's going to be down at the bottom of the pool slinging concrete, or underneath a sleeper sofa going up four flights of steps.' That was my lot in life, so to speak.
GS: What was your first job in football?
ML: When I graduated from college (at the University of Chicago), my college coach asked if I wanted to stay on and help. At the time, I thought I was going to go make a million dollars a year and get the company car and keys to the condo in the Bahamas and do all that. That didn't quite work out, so I went back to him and made $500 for the season. I helped at the college I attended. Because I was making so little money, I had to sleep on my best buddy's porch. It wasn't insulated in any way, so I had lots of sleeping bags and space heaters, and we put up some particle board and some plywood to try to keep the elements out. That's how I basically lived the first year of my coaching career in Chicago.
GS: What did you do as an assistant there?
ML: A little bit of everything. I should say, I worked at downtown Chicago at a law firm. I got up, went downtown and did the legal research for a law firm. Then I'd come back around 2 p.m. and go right over to the football office. Whatever they had going for me, I'd just jump right in and go to practice and stay there until 10:30 or 11 p.m., then get up and do it all again. That's where I met Coach (Pat) Poore. That's where we first started working together. We maintained our friendship until we needed to hire a quarterback coach at Southern Illinois. I told Coach Kill, "I got a guy for you." So 10, 11 years ago we got Coach Poore back in the fold. My first year through (at Chicago), a couple guys turned over and I was able to get on full time there. That was an interesting year. I didn't have a whole lot of extra money. A lot of Ramen Noodles and SpaghettiOs. It was interesting. You could say I paid my dues early on in my career.
GS: What did you want to do coming out of college before you decided to go back to your football coach?
ML: I never interviewed for anything and my buddies were interviewing for jobs with accounting firms and consulting firms and people were coming on campus. I didn't even have a résumé at the time. I didn't know what I was going to do. All of a sudden I went through a summer, and I was doing landscaping, and I said, "I've got to get out of the house. I've got to do something." So I went back to Chicago and started doing football stuff and realized I really liked it.
I actually wanted to get into baseball. I had worked a summer with the White Sox. I had done a summer interning with the Pirates. Right when I finished up with school, I interned for a summer in the league office with the Arena Football League. They were in suburban Chicago at the time. I thought I was going to get into that area, but it was so competitive. I felt like I had a better in to at least keep me afloat for a year or so working in football. Once I got into it, I realized it was something I didn't want to get away from. Here I am, 22 or 23 years later. Big Ten football. That's why I tell any of the young guys, any time a young guy e-mails me or gets a hold of me with regards to getting in the business, I always return the e-mail and tell them we may not have anything here, but just to get in somewhere and to grind it out. You'll be the first one to know if it's not going to work out for you, but give it a try and chase it and see where it leads. I never in a million years would have thought, working at the University of Chicago doing what I was doing that fall, that I would be here in the position I am. It was just a lot of hard work and even more good fortune and getting in with the right group of people, particularly Coach Kill. The rest is history, but it definitely wasn't a clear path. Even when I was full time at Chicago, my career goal was to be a head coach in Division III by the time I was 30. That was my thought process. Fate kind of intervened, and before long I was kind of bumped onto a different path. It's been a wild ride.
GS: What is one example of a lucky break you got on your career path?
ML: They had just deregulated the graduate assistants to where there were only two. At the time I was living right by Wrigley Field on the North Side. I'd get up, drive a half hour to the University of Chicago. A GA spot came open at Northwestern, and really the only reason I got the job was because I was right there, they needed somebody and I could get into graduate school. That was the biggest hurdle there. It wasn't, "Hey, we really like this guy. He's going to be potentially a good football coach. We'll figure out a way to slide him in." They said, "You get into school, then we'll talk." A lot of people that they were interested in, they couldn't get into school. I was lucky enough to get into school. Then I was able to go back to them and say, "OK, I'm in school. What can we do?" So we were able to jump that hurdle, and it put me on a different trajectory, for sure.
GS: If you were not the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Minnesota, what would you be doing?
ML: I would definitely be teaching. I think I could probably fit well as a college professor. Ideally, it'd be something sports-related. When I went to school at the University of Chicago, they didn't have any sports-related classes, and I always thought that'd be a neat thing. (Limegrover earned his undergraduate degree in public policy and graduate degree in liberal studies.) Since I left, obviously as fate would have it, they do. There are a lot of those programs. At some point, maybe when I get done with football, I'd still like to be able to do that and teach. I've also always loved the idea of being in front office player personnel. I probably would have pursued that a little harder had I not fallen in love with coaching almost right away upon graduation. I would have jumped on that track probably and tried to forge my way on through that way.
GS: You have a lot of baseball experience in your background. Was baseball or football your first love?
ML: Baseball. As far as working, because I guess it was more high-profile and there were more opportunities. It was always baseball from a work standpoint and then football from a love of the game and a playing standpoint.
GS: Did you play baseball, too?
ML: Just through freshman year in high school. It wasn't anything beyond that. I always liked it. Then being able to have the opportunity with the White Sox to work on arbitration cases was just awesome, to be able to see how that process went. It's one of the most unique things in sports. I don't think people realize, you're trying to re-sign a guy, and yet you're going in, and they can be sitting there listening to how bad they are. There were two players who we settled. One of them was Bobby Thigpen, who had just come off 57 saves, so we were scrambling to find anything. The other was a guy named Dan Pasqua, who was a really good outfielder. He was a lefty. But we were finding stuff. He couldn't hit lefties during the day. We were basically saying this guy's nothing more than a platoon player. The poor guy was sitting right there. You may win that, but in the long run, the guy's psyche may be bruised.
GS: Did you sit in on the cases?
ML: I didn't get to that part of it. I did the research. I wasn't privy to be able to go into the room. One of the interesting things about that is, when I did that internship, I was working with a young lady who also went to the University of Chicago by the name of Kim Ng, who went on to work for the American League in New York. (Ng is now Major League Baseball's Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations.) I think she is now the highest ranking female official in Major League Baseball.
GS: When were you working for the White Sox?
ML: That was my junior year. I also did a game day internship with the Pirates. I went home and built in-ground swimming pools during the day, then when the Pirates had a home game, I was part of guest relations. When they were doing giveaways, I'd be checking to see what they had quantity-wise at one spot. And I helped oversee high school kids handing out All-Star ballots. I'd run around with a walkie talkie and make sure they were where they were supposed to be and being polite and handing them out. I would leave my job and get there, and I didn't even stay through the whole game. Once we kind of got the people into the stadium, then my job was over and I went home because I was having to be at work at 6 a.m., and I lived about 30 minutes away from where we'd gather to go build the swimming pools. So it made for two long summers, but it was a pretty neat experience. There were a lot of guys that I worked for that now are higher up. They wouldn't remember me from Adam, but it's interesting watching them work their way up within the organizations.