MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The seizures had returned for Jerry Kill.
Perhaps hoping he could still mesh his demanding, pressure-filled job as Minnesota head football coach with his epilepsy, Kill guided the Gophers through one more practice on Tuesday. He was pleased with this week’s game plan for Michigan, yet he knew as he walked off the field what his heart-wrenching decision would be.
He was done coaching. The toll epilepsy took on his body, his mind and his family had become too much to bear for someone trying to turn around an FBS program.
“I feel like a part of me died,” Kill said.
The 54-year-old football lifer reluctantly and tearfully retired on Wednesday, halfway into his fifth season at Minnesota. The drain of his condition and the related medication was clashing with his exhaustive effort to transform the Gophers into a Big Ten power.
“I don’t have any more energy,” Kill said. “None.”
Millions of people with epilepsy lead healthy, normal lives, but coaching major college football is not a healthy, normal living.
“I don’t want to be a liability. I want somebody to have to worry if I’m going to drop on the field. I don’t want to coach from the press box. I want to coach the way I’ve coached my whole life,” Kill said during a half-hour news conference, his Kansas drawl quivering often and his wife fighting back tears nearby.
Kill missed at least a portion of five games in his first three seasons at Minnesota due to seizures, including one that occurred on the field against New Mexico State in the 2011 home opener. Episodes also occurred on game days at Southern Illinois, where one led to a diagnosis of kidney cancer in 2005. He was on the road recruiting five days after surgery for that, and the disease was soon in remission.
Kill’s ability to give his all to the job was tested again in 2013, when a recurrence of seizures forced him to take a leave of absence and see a specialist.