BISMARCK, N.D. - At 54 years old, Jim Gremmels has been called up to the NFL. The longtime equipment manager is heading to the big league in the next couple weeks, saying goodbye to North Dakota, and the University of Mary.
From Mayville State, to the Minnesota Vikings. Gremmels played football at Mayville State, and was working at Pizza Hut when he was told about an opening at the college as equipment manager, a career he'd never considered.
"I said this might be five years of doing it but now I'm on 23 years of doing it,” Gremmels said.
After taking the job at his alma mater his role evolved, taking on other duties including assistant football coach and dorm director.
After 19 years, it was time for a change. Four years ago, his application landed on the desk of then-University of Mary athletic director Roger Thomas.
"He was locked in pretty securely I thought over at Mayville and I was a bit surprised that he was willing to move,” Thomas said. “But it was kinda like time, like he said, a time to try something else and he got here and everybody just loved him and it worked out great."
Since then, "Jimbo" as many of the students call him, has become an integral part of the University of Mary family, putting in close to 100 hours a week to make sure every player is prepared each time they walk on the field or court.
"Here at 7:30 in the morning and you're outta here by 10,11 o'clock at night, depends on what team's practicing,” Gremmels said.
And the extra hours and hard work don't go unnoticed.
"The texts you know after games, getting texts from Jimmy congratulating you on the win and really meaning it,” said Joe Kittell, head men’s basketball coach. “There's not a game that goes on at the University of Mary that he's not streaming or listening to on the radio or watching, even if it's home or away."
While colleagues, players and friends are happy for him, the move is bittersweet, but has been decades in the making.
"Every year I watch the NFL draft and I was always waiting for that NFL call, well 54 years old now and finally got that NFL call so going to the big show now,” Gremmels said.
And while he may be leaving for bigger opportunities, he won't be forgotten by any of those who've had the chance to work with him.
Gremmels has a couple weeks to get settled in before starting orientation on March 19th. When asked what the toughest part of the new job will be, he said getting used to going home around 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.