We Could All Take Inspiration from Jerry Kill

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I don’t intend for the following to read as a eulogy. Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement as head coach of the Minnesota football was prompted specifically because Kill didn’t want the game to be the reason he was eulogized.

His long and ongoing battle with epileptic seizures forced Kill to a crossroads.

“Last night, when I walked off the practice field, I feel like a part of me died,” he told reporters and University of Minnesota staff and supporters gathered for his farewell press conference Wednesday.

Kill specifically mentioned Minnesota Timberwolves Flip Saunders, who passed away unexpectedly over the weekend.

Like Saunders, Jerry Kill had an indelible impact on the game he coached. Kill resurrected the struggling Minnesota football program, last season coaching the Golden Gophers into the Top 25.

Whomever succeeds the coach, whether it be interim Tracy Claeys or an outside hire, inherits a program in much better shape than when Kill arrived. Players past and present recognize and appreciation what the coach did for the program.

That was Kill’s coaching M.O. Southern Illinois was a regular FCS Playoffs participant when he turned that program over on his way to FBS Northern Illinois.

While Northern Illinois had success before Kill’s arrival in DeKalb in 2008, it’s fair to say the Huskies wouldn’t have grown into a nationally recognizable brand with a Heisman finalist and Orange Bowl berth were it not for Jerry Kill.

In his press conference, Kill said he “didn’t want to cheat the game.” He’s done anything but, and I hope he comes to realize it sooner than later.

With his exit, Kill’s impact can extend beyond a single program. He’s a living reminder that there’s plenty out there bigger than the sport.

For someone whose life is far more tied to football than any fan’s, that’s meaningful.

It seems unfair, cruel even, that a man who already overcame kidney cancer to continue coaching would have a separate malady force him into retirement. Don’t expect to hear or read anything from Kill feeling sorry for himself, though.

As sad as Kill’s farewell address was, and as difficult a choice as it undoubtedly was for him, there’s inspiration to be taken from a man with perspective bigger than football.