SE: Kill's Kansas Comeback
SE: Kill's Kansas Comeback
Jerry Kill walks into the Vanier Family Football Complex, grabs a cup of coffee and begins making the rounds. It’s about 7 a.m., the start of Kill’s workday that will likely last until well after 8 p.m.
He’ll make a number of stops during the day, converse with people throughout K-State Athletics and, more specifically, serve as an “extra set of eyes” for the Wildcats’ football program.
“It’s certainly different than being the head coach,” said Kill, more than a month into his new role as K-State’s Associate Athletics Director for Administration. “The people here have been great. Everybody has treated me very, very well. What I don’t know, I just get out there and venture off and see what I can do to help.”
Before Kill could help K-State, he had to first help himself.
The three-time national coach of the year honoree dealt with health issues for more than a decade, resigning as Minnesota’s head coach last October when his battle with epilepsy became overwhelming.
Kill’s healing path started with treatment and rehabilitation in Florida, where he completely changed his diet, began walking about 10 miles a day and lost 20-25 pounds in the process.
“I just did all the things I should’ve done a long time ago,” Kill said, seizure free for more than eight months this September. “Even here, I don’t sit in this chair very long. I stay on the move pretty good. Right now I feel like mentally, physically, I’m the best I’ve been in a long time… a long time.”
Kill also completed an autobiography — titled “Chasing Your Dreams: Living My Life One Yard at a Time” — while in Florida. The book, co-authored by Jim Bruton, covers about every aspect of Kill’s life and was released last week. All of the book’s proceeds go toward his two foundations, Chasing Dreams – Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota and the Coach Kill Cancer Fund.
“It’s kind of a mixture of a lot of things,” Kill, a college head coach for 22 years, said of the book. “I’m not taking anything for it. If people don’t like the book, buy it and help people. That’s really why I did it, more so than anything, was to raise some money.”
Now, Kill is living a new chapter of his life in his home state, at a school he’s always been fond of and with a coach he considers an icon.
“It’s a privilege and an honor,” said Kill, whose prior connections with K-State included playing for and coaching with Dennis Franchione — an assistant for the Wildcats from 1978-80 — while at Southwestern and Pittsburg State, respectively, along with being close friends with former Wildcat assistant and current TCU head coach Gary Patterson.
Kill also has coaching connections with Jon and Dave Wiemers, brothers to K-State volleyball head coach Suzie Fritz.
“I’ve got some K-State background in me,” Kill said. “Growing up, I was not a KU person. I was a K-State person.”
The Cheney native played at Southwestern, made coaching stops at Pittsburg State (1985-87; 1990-93) and Emporia State (1999-2000) in Kansas. He later served as the head coach at Southern Illinois (2001-07) and Northern Illinois (2008-10) before taking over at Minnesota in 2011.
The call back to Kansas, Kill said, was too good to resist.
“I’ve always been a Midwest kind of guy. A good portion of my life was spent in the state of Kansas, so it’s something that’s special to me to come back,” Kill said. “I’m thankful to (Athletics Director) John Currie for giving me that opportunity and also Coach Snyder for stamping his approval on it. It’s pretty neat to come back and work for a program where the guy’s got his statue in front of the stadium.”
One key part of Kill’s daily routine is his ability to stay close to the football program. He is at every practice, observing more than anything to keep a crucial piece of his personal identity.
“It’s different, but Coach has allowed me to be around it enough where I’m not getting a chance to coach it but I’m still around it every day,” Kill said. “That’s much appreciated. It makes the transition easier.”
Also easing Kill into his new role was his first assignment: meeting with a group of K-State alums in Minnesota, many of whom he already knew. Since then, he’s made an appearance at the Colbert-Fogler Golf Classic — a fundraising tournament for K-State’s men’s and women’s golf teams — and interacted with the volleyball, basketball and soccer programs.
“Coach Kill has been a perfect hire for us at this moment in time. The support he provides for football and the ability to translate and help our senior athletics administration team understand things from a veteran coach’s perspective is really important,” Currie said. “I think he’s been very helpful in supporting our student-athletes in a number of sports. It’s a real blessing to have his expertise and his skillset in helping support our coaches and our student-athletes.
“At the end of the day, that’s what the administration is here for is to support our student-athletes and coaches.”
Kill’s main focus lies in how he can help Snyder and his program in any way possible, whether that is talking with players, helping with scheduling or making the rounds in Vanier.
“I’m not up there trying to figure out how we’re going to win a game. I’m in a different role to help them have the tools to win a game,” said Kill, who turned down multiple other opportunities before accepting Currie’s offer to join on at K-State. “John’s a pretty convincing guy. I wasn’t going to go to just any program, and I knew Coach Snyder ran a disciplined program.”
Other factors played into his decision to come to K-State as well, such as Manhattan’s location, which is close to home and offers a nice middle ground between his two daughters, Krystal and Tasha.
“If you added everything up, this was a better fit for me at this time,” said Kill, who’s enjoyed seeing the way K-State Athletics operates. “Everybody wants to be helpful and you’re not fighting to try to get stuff done. Here, you can just get things accomplished a lot easier.”