Back at work, Gophers' Jerry Kill tries to keep focus on football
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MINNEAPOLIS -- While sticking with a calm demeanor, coach Jerry Kill wanted to keep the focus on football Tuesday in his first public address since suffering a seizure Saturday at halftime of the Minnesota Gophers' 29-12 win against Western Illinois.
"I appreciate everyone's thoughts through the weekend. I appreciate that very much, but the press conference today is about our football players and our football team," Kill said soon after stepping to the podium for his weekly press conference.
"That's Coach Kill's decision and not anybody else's. This game is not about a head football coach. This game is about the players and that's how we'll approach it today."
Kill's continual struggle with epilepsy, which he has battled since 2000, was brought back to the forefront Saturday after what was his third in-game seizure of his three-year tenure with the Gophers.
In the days since, Kill's players and coaches, and Gophers athletic Norwood Teague have all reiterated their full support of the 52-year-old coach, keeping with a straightforward and unfazed attitude.
Kill did not meet with the players during the team's typical Sunday day-after film review, choosing to spend part of the day resting at home, though he was at the office later that night.
The "U" players have Mondays off from practice, but defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys told a group that was at the facility on Monday that Kill was fine and they would see him at practice Tuesday as usual.
"That's all we needed to hear," defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman said. "We know how tough he is. We know how prideful he is. He doesn't want to talk about the situation. We don't' either. As long as he's doing good, we're good.
Although he stayed away from delving into details about his latest epileptic episode, Kill was asked Tuesday if he has ever considered coaching from the press box
He contemplated the question for a quick moment before offering a direct answer.
No ... It wouldn't make any difference, that's all I'll tell you," Kill said, laughing slightly. "That's a great question though ... I haven't ever thought about it to be honest with you."
When Kill was carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital, the Gophers still had 30 minutes of football to deal with in a game they led only 7-6 at the break. For the team, Kill's absence was more of a motivational spark than a setback to their usual game day operations.
Hageman said redshirt sophomore right tackle Josh Campion gathered the team at halftime and gave a short speech rallying around Kill and refocusing the players before heading back to the field
That "business as usual" attitude has been maintained when the players have fielded questions about Kill's situation and its effects on the team.
"We're used to it," Hageman said. "Obviously handling adversity so well, that's what this team is all about ... Behind closed doors, seeing the leadership we have motivates all the other players. It moves us forward."