Perhaps the most analyzed and well respected coach in the Big Ten is Minnesota Gophers head coach Jerry Kill. It’s not because he is an elite coach with a strong recruiting hand, and it’s not because his teams appease fans with positive results on the field — he’s a total of 17-21 at Minnesota. No, it’s nothing tangible. It’s the fact that everything he accomplishes while coaching the Gophers is done while battling epilepsy.
Because Kill isn’t going to be taking Minnesota to the national title game anytime soon, when his time with the Gophers is over — it doesn’t matter how he exits — the legacy of this coach will be his seizures.
It would be pretty and polite to say he will only be remembered for those on-the-field wins, perhaps when the odds were stacked against his team, but in reality, most will remember him for his on-the-field seizures. It’s rather unfortunate, really.
I am a huge fan of Jerry Kill. He is a class act and could be used as a clean model for how to get it done the right way. And I’m not just talking about coaching. I can’t empathize with someone when it comes to epilepsy, but it is difficult to witness the toll it can sometimes take on an individual. And to think Jerry Kill is coaching in a major college football conference while dealing with his condition — that’s incredible in itself.
At one of his weekly news conferences during last season, Kill said he had suffered “about 20” seizures through the previous six days. He later added that he probably sold it short, saying it was actually “probably more.”
His medication makes him very drowsy and easily dehydrated sometimes, but Kill still insists his coaching is nothing at which to marvel. He is probably thinking we all deal with adversity at one time or another. Yes, that’s true Mr. Kill, but there are very few of us who battle with (and through) such adversity while working to coach and mentor young people. That’s not to mention the added stress of trying to please those individuals who keep him employed with the University of Minnesota.
It’s a workload that cannot be denied. So perhaps Kill’s legacy being his seizures wouldn’t be such a horrible thing after all. His career has been an admirable one.
If we take just a single thing away from Jerry Kill’s time at Minnesota, it should be the fact that this man has been an incredible inspiration to many individuals across the country. You can’t put a number next to that.