Kill to stay off sideline

Published 2:46 am Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Jerry Kill has begun to work his way back into the job.

The Minnesota coach won’t be back on the sideline yet Saturday when the Gophers play at Indiana, though, and Kill just might keep it that way the rest of the season.

Hey, his team has won two games in a row. What’s the rush?

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“My daddy used to say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it,’ so I ain’t really going to try to fix anything,” Kill said Tuesday at his first regular news conference appearance in four weeks. “My ego ain’t that big. I just want to win.”

Earlier this month, Kill took a leave of absence so he could better manage and treat his epilepsy, and he spent time in a specialty clinic in Michigan.

His wife drove him to the game Oct. 19 at Northwestern, surprising the entire team, and he watched in the coaches’ booth from above in the press box, except for a halftime pep talk for the players.

He did the same last Saturday, when Minnesota (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten) beat Nebraska for the first time in 17 meetings since 1960.

He and linebackers coach Billy Miller, one of many assistants on staff who’ve been with him for decades, stayed in their seats to watch the students swarm the field after the game ended.

“I’ve learned this: You only get so many moments in your lifetime. By gosh, you better enjoy them,” Kill said.

That he did. The Gophers beat up the Huskers on both sides of the ball, a proud moment for the coach who took over this floundering program two seasons ago.

He spoke about appreciating the setup in the press box, where he could take advantage of television timeouts and use the bathroom without missing a play. Kill declined to specify how much input he has been giving.

So the plan for now is for Kill to continue in an advisory role during the game, while attending practice and focusing on recruiting during the week.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys continues to be in charge on the sideline, with other assistants taking on added duties as well. They’ll evaluate the situation each week.

“Will I do that my whole career and that stuff? I ain’t worrying about it. I’m taking it one day at a time,” Kill said, adding: “I’m not going to make those decisions right now, but I am a little superstitious, and we’re not going to change a whole lot.”

Kill looked healthy and relaxed, and he was in a jovial, joking mood. He also vowed he’d be seizure-free soon, promising to be behind the wheel by February.

Minnesota law requires drivers to be seizure-free for at least three months before having their license reinstated.

“I’m not going to say I hope and maybe and all that. I’m going to be driving that truck, too,” Kill said. “As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to order the thing this week. And I ain’t lying.”

Kill spoke about working smarter and being a better listener, rather than stubbornly and obsessively spending hours upon hours devising game plans for the next opponent, as so many football coaches do.

“The most important thing we’re doing right now is finding success. And hopefully that’s not putting any pressure on him. I think if we weren’t winning, he might feel that he has to rush back,” cornerback Brock Vereen said.

Quarterback Philip Nelson said he missed Kill’s fiery presence on the sideline, but the players have expressed excitement about having the head coach around again, regardless of his actual responsibility.

“He’s a huge inspirational force for us, and we’re just really lucky to have him. And I think the way we’ve been able to have for him just shows the amount of respect for him. He’s an unbelievable guy, an unbelievable coach and we’re just real lucky to have him around still,” Nelson said, adding: “We’re cherishing our time more around him.”