- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Detroit Lions reporter
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Editor's note: Catching Up With is a periodic series in which WolverineNation will interview past Michigan players about their playing days and what they're up to now. This installment features former linebacker Jerry Meter.
Jerry Meter spent his life around Michigan. His father, Bernard, played football for the Wolverines. His nephew Will is going to be a freshman at the school this year. And Jerry was a linebacker for Michigan, recording 211 tackles from 1976-78 while playing in three Rose Bowls and captaining the 1978 squad.
Additionally, he stayed at Michigan for almost a decade after, coaching the defensive line for Bo Schembechler from 1980-86. Since then, Meter has stayed in the area and gone on to a different level of coaching.
WolverineNation caught up with Meter in August to find out what he has done over the past 25 years.
Q: What have you been up to since you left Michigan a few decades ago?
Jerry Meter: "I ended up coaching eight years for Bo [Schembechler] afterwards. For two years I was a graduate assistant and for six years I was the defensive line coach during my 20s. So my last game I coached at Michigan was the 1987 Rose Bowl, played Arizona State, and [Jim] Harbaugh was the quarterback. Since that time I've been working for a company called Steelcase in a sales position. Been doing that for almost the last 25 years."
Q: So why did you get out of coaching?
JM: "Well, at that time my wife was a professional salesperson and worked in media sales, worked for the Detroit Free Press and worked for WDIV. We were having our second child, and I had to make a decision to balance it a little bit because it was difficult for her to manage raising a family as well as working. It wasn't an easy decision, but it turned out to be a right decision and fortunate for us. Got a great family, four kids."
Q: Have you thought in years since like, "Man, if only I had stayed in coaching?'"
JM: (Laughs) "Well, I'd be lying to you if I didn't think once in a while 'Well, if I were coaching, we would have done it this way.' But you know what, one of the things that has been fun is I've coached every other sport, including football, as I worked with my kids. I coached soccer, basketball, boys and girls track, boys and girls basketball, lacrosse. I'm really into lacrosse now. It's a great, great sport. I'm really excited about Michigan taking it to Division I. My nephew Will Meter is one of the incoming freshmen this year who is going to be in the first class of the Division I team for lacrosse. So the answer to your question, sidestepping, is that I've been coaching my whole life, not giving it up. Just doing it on a different level, that's all."
Q: So what's your favorite sport to coach since you've gotten to them all?
JM: "Well, I haven't coached them all, but thank you. I love football, always have, always will. The way I was fortunate enough to have been coached by Bo helped me understand the real value of what athletics and football is all about, and I tell you, that goes all the way back to how Bo was coached and mentored by Woody Hayes and some of the other great coaches he coached with, Ara Parseghian and others. But, I love lacrosse and I've got to tell you, a very close second. It's a great sport. My dream would be to have 100,000 people in Michigan Stadium for the national championship. I'd love to see that happen."
Q: Since you brought up lacrosse, how did you get involved in it? It wasn't big in Michigan when you were growing up.
JM: "Well, first of all, the lacrosse guys would always end up showing up. We would have practice ending around 6:15 and at 6:20 the lacrosse club would come out and practice during the fall all the time. We didn't really have any idea what the hell these guys are doing other than the damn ball would hit the side of the building and put dents in the roof, and you'd get out of the way because if you got hit by one of them, it hurt like hell. So I knew a little bit about lacrosse but obviously not very much. But what happened is it was actually through football. I was coaching junior high football at a parochial school in the Detroit area, and they were a feeder school to Brother Rice. I don't know how much you follow lacrosse here in Michigan, but Brother Rice has an outstanding team, a real powerhouse. One of the coaches' kids brought a lacrosse stick out to practice and was playing around with it. My son picked it up and was goofing around with it. This was in sixth grade, and he seemed to really like it. So that started it and even to the point to where my son doesn't play football. He plays lacrosse year-round. But I'm happy for him. He loves the sport, is very motivated by it. Very happy about that."
Q: How old is your son? Is he good enough to play here?
JM: "I don't know. We're going to figure out if he can, but he's going to be a junior next year in high school and is our youngest. So I'm just, the thing is, I'm just happy he's found something he's really passionate about, and he loves going out and throwing the ball around and practicing by himself and working with the team. I'm real happy for him for that. The fact that he's not playing football is no issue for me at all."
Q: We've talked about coaching, but how did your career evolve with Steelcase?
JM: "Well, please be sure that anything you say, don't make it sound like I'm coaching all the time. I don't get paid to coach. I do it all afterhours and all voluntary. I've never taken a dime for coaching [after Michigan]. It's kind of the way I give back. But I've been calling on the automotive accounts and a lot of the other accounts here in southeast Michigan. Steelcase is a great company that I'm very fortunate to work for. The CEO of the company was a teammate of mine at Michigan, although he's a couple years older than me. His name is Jim Hackett. He graduated in '76, I'm pretty sure, his last season may have been '75. When I left coaching he was working at Steelcase, and I gave him a call, and he helped me understand what I needed to do to interview. He's the CEO now, and I've been fortunate to work for him and work for a great company."
Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mikerothstein.
WolverineNation catches up with former LB Jerry Meter, a former team captain who played in three Rose Bowls and later was an assistant coach for Bo Schembechler.