Premium Partners

Kill, Gophers Resilient in Face of Football Coach's Seizures

AthleticBusiness.com has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.


Copyright 2013 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 7, 2013 Thursday
CITY-D Edition
SPORTS; Inq Sports; Pg. D01
669 words
Seizures cannot completely sideline Minnesota's Kill
By Joe Juliano; Inquirer Staff Writer

The college football world breathed a sigh of relief three weeks ago when Minnesota coach Jerry Kill announced he would take time away from the team to focus on treating his epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by intermittent seizures.

Equal parts concern and outrage had followed each of Kill's four seizures since he took over the reins of the Golden Gophers in 2011, with the consensus being that the stress of major-college coaching was too much for him and that the resulting seizures would put his health in danger.

Yet there Kill was on Oct. 19 - two weeks after suffering a seizure that kept him from coaching against Michigan - standing in Minnesota's locker room at Northwestern after his wife had driven him from Minneapolis to Evanston, Ill., to watch the game. His surprised players listened to his halftime speech, then went out and defeated the Wildcats.

"He's like Linus' blanket," acting head coach Tracy Claeys told the St. Paul Pioneer Press after the game. "To have him around just makes everybody feel comfortable because he means a hell of a lot to all of us."

Since then it has been difficult to keep the 52-year-old Kill away. He's in meetings and looks in on practice. He is active in recruiting. He has watched three straight wins by the Golden Gophers (7-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) from the press box and is expected to be there again Saturday when his team hosts Penn State.

"I've got to work smarter," Kill said at an Oct. 29 news conference. "I'm doing that right now. I've got great people. When you turn around programs, you're in the middle of it and sometimes you try to do too much. I've put a lot of hours in, but I need to share the responsibility a little bit better."

Kill has received well wishes from everywhere, including Happy Valley, where Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said he had "a ton of respect for Jerry." Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who battled leukemia last season, corresponded with him and "I don't even know the guy," Kill said.

"There's a lot of people that have come back from different situations and I listened to those people," he said. "I haven't listened a whole lot in 30 years and that's probably why I'm in the situation I'm in. But I'm listening now."

Scott Mintzer, associate professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University's Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, applauded Kill's decision to keep working and called concern about stress "complete and total nonsense."

"People who have seizures are capable of working just as well as anybody else during the time that they're not having seizures," Mintzer said. "The issue is that seizures are unpredictable. The idea that these things happen because of too much stress is really overwhelmingly a misnomer. Stress can make things worse, but the bottom line is the disease, not the stress."

Mintzer called Kill "a fantastic role model for people with chronic illnesses altogether, and especially for people with epilepsy who are subject to sometimes remarkable amounts of unreasonable prejudice."

Minnesota defensive back Brock Vereen said the No. 1 concern among the players is Kill's health.

"He's a blue-collar guy," Vereen said. "He's down to earth. He's very easy to play for. He makes you feel loved and it's always easy to play for a coach who cares about you."

In a poignant twist, doctors treating Kill after a seizure in 2005 discovered he had kidney cancer. He is confident he can deal with epilepsy, but he knows he has to be careful.

"I understand my back's against the wall," he said. "I can't afford any setbacks. But I beat cancer and I'll beat this eventually."

Nittany notes. Penn State guard John Urschel has been selected as a finalist for the Senior Class award that honors a senior FBS football player for his achievements in the community and classroom and on the field. . . . Penn State announced that its Nov. 16 game against Purdue at Beaver Stadium will kick off at noon and will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

Photograph by: ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 7, 2013

Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms and Conditions Privacy Policy
AB Show 2022 in Orlando
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Learn More
AB Show
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide