MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Jerry Kill is no longer the football coach at the University of Minnesota. His retirement less than a month ago because of health reasons with epilepsy and seizures have been reported.
Monday night, Kill and his wife, Rebecca, take us through that final week. They tell us where he is drawing inspiration from now and discuss his relationship with ousted Athletic Director Norwood Teague.
Today there is a sense of calm in his life. Jerry Kill knows he made the right decision to leave the game he loves.
“I made the right one. I certainly made the right one for the University of Minnesota,” Kill said. “By sitting back and having the opportunity to watch our kids and our coaches, I think it was time. I didn’t have the juice that you needed and I wasn’t going to cheat the University of Minnesota and I think by stepping away from it those kids have kind of rallied around that. Those kids were my kids, and they always will be.”
But oh, what led to this. The night he knew he had to give it up, and called his brother and mother first.
“He goes ‘What’s the matter coach?’ and I talked to him and he said ‘I got your back. I’ve always had your back,'” Kill said. “My mom was the last one I called. I called her about 9 o’clock and she didn’t say too much. She said ‘Yup, just remember I love you and it’s time.’ That was the end of the conversation.”
The next day, he walked in and told his team he was done. Then his quarterback, Mitch Leidner, followed him to his office.
“Mitch came to my office, a lot of people don’t know that, and he wouldn’t leave. He wouldn’t leave and said ‘I’m going to enjoy this moment coach.’ He wouldn’t leave the office,” Kill said.
From there, to an unforgettable press conference.
“I tried some stuff that I had to do. I took my own self off of because I couldn’t think the way I wanted to think,” Kill said at his retirement news conference.
Where he knew his life was never going to be the same.
“I felt like a part of me died,” Kill said.
“For him to lay it all out like he did that day at the press conference it was tough,” Rebecca Kill said. “A part of him died, but a part of all of us died. This has been our life.”
He and his wife have had time to reflect and what he has asked himself is what would his late father have said. See that was his role model, his driving force, and would he have been OK watching his son give it up.
“Is it OK dad? That’s what I wasn’t sure of. He’s been gone, he was the man and I’m so much like him. I wanted to make sure that he felt that I had no more left in me,” Kill said.
A man who has fought cancer and epilepsy, is thankful for both.
“I’m blessed. I’m one of the most blessed human beings you can ever ask for. You know what, cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me a better person. Epilepsy is one of the best things that ever happened to me because it’s grown knowledge all over the country,” Jerry Kill said. “There’s a lot of people who die from epilepsy, so I take two tragic things and anything that’s happened in my life, I’ve still lived a blessed life.”
There was his tumultuous relationship with Norwood Teague before Teague left after a sexual harassment scandal, a relationship that took a toll.
“With Norwood and myself, most people would say it wasn’t a perfect marriage and so forth. That doesn’t mean Norwood is a bad guy or anything like that,” Kill said. “It’s just that it was two different people wanting two different things. I want to get things done and I’m a straight-shooter and honest.”
He’s fielding inquiries and job offers from across the country, but is by design not going to get serious about his future for at least three months. In the meantime, he’s living off the spirit of his late father.
“You’ve crashed and burned, get up on your feet and don’t feel sorry for yourself. Get in there and see what you can do and fight this thing,” Kill said. “That’s what I’m doing, I’m living off dad right now. He gets me out of bed and I know he’s there.”
He and his family are well aware of what has been made of this unpredictable journey called life. And they are not wallowing, but appreciating all that has been and will be.
“I feel blessed. I truly do. There is nothing in my life that I am not blessed or thankful for. Even the things we’ve had to go through,” Rebecca Kill said. “We’ve gone through them for a reason. I’ve always thought there is a reason for everything and God has a plan for us. He has a plan for us now.”
And that’s the ironic takeaway — that when Kill he asks “why me?” he means why have I been given so much.
“I kind of wake up and say ‘Why me, why us?’ Not why me epilepsy, why am I having all this success and why did I marry this beautiful woman. It makes you humble,” Jerry Kill said.