My First Job: Jay Sawvel
Minnesota coach Jay Sawvel once sold leather chaps and saddlebags at motorcycle rallies.

July 12, 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. Defensive backs and special teams coach Jay Sawvel joins us for the second installment of our “My First Job” series.

GopherSports: Coach, thanks for your time today. What was your first job?

Jay Sawvel: My first real job… I guess I could use the profession term of “landscaping,” but it wasn’t. I mowed yards. I did the grounds keeping at a retirement home facility in my hometown. Basically, I would play a game on Friday night in the fall, and Saturday morning I’d be on the mowers and the weed-eaters and doing that. That would be pretty much half my day on Saturday all summer long. Through doing that, I got into a lot of other jobs. I ended up being covered in grass and gasoline most of the summers. That was really my initial job.

GS: Do you have any interesting stories from those outdoor jobs?

JS: Not from my mowing days. My most interesting stories come from when I was in coaching, when you’re not making any money. When I was a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky, which was my first coaching job, I was in a situation where we didn’t get paid in the summer. There wasn’t a big network there of any kind. So you pretty much had to go find a way to get paid anyway. We didn’t get paid much as it was, even when we did get paid. So I sold fireworks in the summer. I did that for a week in Kansas City. Probably the best of it was I sold leather chaps and saddlebags at a motorcycle rally for a couple different weekends when I was in Kentucky. So I know my chaps and saddlebags and things like that. I’ve done the motorcycle rallies and fireworks in my past.



GS: What was your role in your first job at Eastern Kentucky?

JS: I was a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky. I worked a lot in the weight room and then I also assisted with the defensive line initially when I went there. From that, that led into transitioning, in time, to the secondary. Then I got my graduate assistantship at Notre Dame. Eastern Kentucky was my first coaching job. As far as my other things I had to do, I had to try and survive.

GS: What do you think you would be doing if you were not the secondary coach at Minnesota?

JS:  I have two Master’s degrees. So I would probably be in some business sector, or I’d be in sales. I would be in something to that degree if I wasn’t involved in football. That’s sort of like a frontier that you don’t know about. You step outside of the box that you live in, and you’re like, “What do people do?” You don’t know that all the time. I would be in some form of corporate business. I would love to be in sports. I think that would be fun. There are so many good jobs in sports that keep you young. It would probably be somewhere along those lines because of some of the background I had academically.

GS: Did you always want to be a football coach, or did you originally have another plan?

JS: I knew I wanted to be a football coach, probably from when I was about a sophomore in high school. From that point forward, I always knew I wanted to be a coach. I went to college knowing I wanted to be a coach, but you don’t major in coaching. So I said, “Okay, now what do I do?” So that was sort of a dilemma as far as what to do. I went through college and did that, and really in coaching, the biggest part about it is you pretty much have to get through a 10-year period where you’re going to make no money, where you’re going to have no life, while guys that you may have graduated college with are working for a corporation and they’ve got the nice car. Maybe they bought the house or they just got married or whatever, and you have none of that. That was probably the biggest transition. My first full-time job, I took a pay cut from being a GA. It’s sort of just the way that it works. Like I said, I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t (coaching), other than the fact that I’d probably be in some kind of business. I was fortunate along the way. I would have to be one of the only people that have ever gone through Notre Dame as an assistant football coach and got a degree. That’s sort of unheard of. But I worked my butt off, I took a lot of summer classes, a lot of night classes, whenever I could to do that. It probably took years off my life doing it, but I’m glad that I did it, because I have opportunities to do other things if I didn’t coach. And it’s helped me through the coaching part, too. So that was probably a good opportunity.

Read the first interview in the series:
Matt Limegrover


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