MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Three seizures during three games in two years have Gopher fans like Margaret Swanson wondering if coach Jerry Kill’s struggles with epilepsy are too much for the job.
“I feel so bad because it seems to be happening a lot,” Swanson said. “I wonder what happens in the locker room when he doesn’t come in…I’m sure it takes a toll on them a little bit.”
Dr. Thaddeus Walczak is an epileptologist at the University of Minnesota. He says that although high-stress situations – like football games – could make seizures more likely to occur in someone with epilepsy, that’s not a reason to change careers.
“People in very, very high stress, very responsible positions have had seizures and have done extremely well,” Walczak said. “I don’t think it will have that big of an impact. Generally, people can cope or can learn to cope with those kinds of situations by learning how to address the stress.”
Gopher tight end Maxx Williams and his teammates are also standing by their coach. Williams says they’re concerned about his health, but not its effect on the game.
“We’re well prepared like no other, and we know something like this can happen because we know coach and what he goes through,” Williams said. “I think our coaches just knew we weren’t going to miss a beat.”
Tracy Claeys, the team’s defensive coordinator, says Kill’s condition has never been hidden from the team.
“We’ve been open with the players, with the recruits. It’s not a problem except for the fact of…it’s a pain in his butt,” Claeys said.
Whatever happens the rest of the season on the field, Gopher fans like Todd Barin just hope their coach is OK off the field.
“The game’s, you know, going well. But obviously the first priority is him and his health,” Barin said.