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Interview: Jerry & Rebecca Kill Talk Marriage, Making It Last

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(credit: CBS) Amelia Santaniello
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The night before Valentine’s Day is full of pressure for many couples.

But what if you’ve been dealing with the pressure of coaching, expectations, and medical problems for almost 30 years?

We sat down with Gopher football coach Jerry Kill and his wife, Rebecca, to learn the secrets to a winning marriage.

“This is hard for you to believe, but as pretty as she is…she actually chased me a little bit,” Jerry said.

Jerry and Rebecca love talking about those old days – the days when Jerry had hair, played football at Southwestern College and went home with his roommate, who happened to be her brother.

“I told Doug…I want to marry her someday,” Jerry said. “I just said it off the cuff, at the dinner table.”

However, he was serious about it.

“I said, ‘This gal’s a good looking gal,’” Jerry said.

When he said that, Rebecca’s then-boyfriend was at the dinner table.

But three years later, Jerry and Rebecca walked down the aisle. He was 21, she was 19; and they were about to learn that coaching doesn’t pay very well at the beginning.

In the early days, he was only making $350 a month, and she was working two jobs.

“I still remember she went home and left for about a week…tried to figure out if this is the type of lifestyle [she wanted],” Jerry said.

Jerry met with a priest. They both met with a counselor. And they never looked back.

“It’s the only time we ever met with anybody in our whole lives, to this day,” Jerry said.

That was three years into their marriage.

“Our marriage has gotten better as the years go,” Jerry said.

Along the way, he battled kidney cancer while coaching at Southern Illinois.

“I was in stage 4 cancer, and they give me a 50/50 shot,” Jerry said. “You get your life in order real quickly.”

Rebecca added: “I think it made us stronger. You have to go through a lot of things together…It puts things in perspective.”

When Jerry came to coach in Minnesota, he had a very public battle with epilepsy — including a seizure on the sidelines.

“It’s stressful, I think about it all the time,” Rebecca said. “I worry about it all the time. But he’s doing really good, and doing what he’s supposed to.”

And one of the things he’s supposed to do is let his wife drive. But Jerry is having a hard time giving up his keys.

Jerry’s job is also pressure-packed. At some events, Rebecca can’t get very close to him, and Jerry works notoriously long hours.

So how do they find balance? Sometimes the coach relies on an assistant’s advice.

“When I’m putting in a bunch of hours, he’ll go: Hey coach, if you’re not dating her someone’s going to,” Jerry said.

But the Kills say most of those “dates” are low-key: nights at home, walks with their dogs, or trips to Rebecca’s favorite spot.

“She’s got a craving for Sonic drinks,” Jerry said. “You get her a diet vanilla coke at Sonic, and we’re good to go.”

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