Jerry Kill’s payback: Loyalty

Step into the NewsCut Wayback Machine and set it for September 2013, when some local sportswriters were calling for the head of University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill, who had the audacity to have epilepsy.

“The face of your program can’t belong to someone who may be rushed to the hospital at any moment of any game, or practice, or news conference,” Star Tribune sports columnist Jim Souhan said in demanding that Kill go. “No one who buys a ticket to TCF Bank Stadium should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground. This is not how you compete for sought-after players and entertainment dollars.”

“Is it possible a coach can be sick and still be inspiring?” I asked at the time.

Yep.

Kill has emerged as, perhaps, the most beloved coach in Minnesota sports, and not just because his team wins football games now.

And this week, Kill extended to the region what so many in the area refused to extend to him a year ago: a little loyalty.

Sports Illustrated suggested Kill could be headed for Michigan, though it, too, succumbed to the but-he-had-epilepsy myopia.

Jerry Kill would be a wonderful fit in Ann Arbor, as all he’s done is win at Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois and now Minnesota. Kill’s epilepsy, which caused him to miss a handful of weeks during the 2013 season, could hurt his candidacy.

Kill, who could still be forgiven for wanting to get out of town, knocked down the rumor quickly, according to the Pioneer Press.

“It’s a compliment,” Kill said on KFXN-FM. “But I also know that the most important thing when you go through that, I’ve seen a lot of coaches and a lot of people get caught up in all of that stuff, and that’s when you’re not successful.

“I’ve said all along is that this is my home, and as long as people want me in this home, I’m in good shape. We don’t beat Illinois (Saturday), they may be calling me in and there won’t be any mention, except getting an apple and a road map. So it’s important for us to take care of that.”