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NCAA Football Minnesota Golden Gophers

Jerry Kill’s Passion, Resilience Makes Him Early Favorite for Big Ten Coach of the Year

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The passion that Minnesota Golden Gophers head football coach Jerry Kill is undeniable. Fans of college football have been made aware of the arduous battle that Kill has waged against epilepsy over the past few years. When lesser men may have given up the dream of being a Division-I head football coach, Kill has not. Other men may have been embarrassed by public seizures that were a result of the bout with epilepsy, but Kill has not wavered from his goals and his passion for Minnesota football and the young men that he is privileged to coach.

Kill was first diagnosed with epilepsy in 2005 while coaching at Southern Illinois. Kill had some shocking news that came at the time of his diagnosis. Doctors had also discovered that he had cancer. The cancer was located in his kidneys. Now Kill would have to face two battles head on. He would learn to live with his epilepsy and try to control the seizures that are a result of the disease. At the same time Kill was attempting to get his epilepsy under control, he would be fighting cancer, as well as coaching his team.

Kill’s health issues caused him to miss the game against Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines. The daunting realization that Kill may not coach again for the Golden Gophers never entered his mind as it did many of his critics. Some felt that having Kill as a coach was a distraction to the players and the potential distraction subtracted from the focus necessary to win a Big Ten title. Kill ignored all of these claims and continued to focus on his health and his team just like he did when he first found out he was an epileptic diagnosed with cancer.

As Kill’s team prepared for their matchup with Northwestern on the road this week, Kill was absent from practice, but never absent from the minds of the players and coaches still preparing for the game. In fact, Kill was in constant contact with his staff as they prepared for battle with him. The team was pleasantly surprised to see that Kill and his family had loaded up their family vehicle and made the drive from Minneapolis to Evanston for the Northwestern game where the coach watched the game as an observer from the box. The coach could not stay away for long as he made his way to the locker room to address the team at halftime.

Kill is coaching in a conference that recently saw Bill O’Brien win Coach of the Year. A big part of the reason for the honor that O’Brien received the award was because of what he, his staff and the Penn State team had to overcome following the tragic Jerry Sandusky scandal and the exodus of legendary coach Joe Paterno.

The perseverance that Kill has shown through his difficult times mirrors the strength and fortitude that O’Brien portrayed. If the Golden Gophers continue their winning ways, Kill will receive many votes for Coach of the Year in the Big Ten.