He would trade his headphones for a helmet in a second. But these days, the headphones represent Matt Grootegoed's connection to the game he has always loved.
"On the field, I get the itch, sometimes, to go play," said Grootegoed, 30, a former USC All-American linebacker who became an Orange County football legend as a tailback and safety at Mater Dei High about a dozen years ago. "The best part about coaching is being around football, being around the guys and just being in the game."
Grootegoed is six games into his first season as linebackers coach at Orange Coast College, which is 3-3 entering its home game against Santa Ana Saturday at 7 p.m. at LeBard Stadium. It's the first time he has immersed himself in football since his professional career ended after three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 2009.
After starring at USC, where the one-time Butkus Award finalist won back-to-back national championships in 2003 and 2004 and played with Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, Grootegoed signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005.