Surprise Visit From Kill Inspired Gophers

Updated: 10/24/2013 12:19 AM KSTP.com By: Chris Long



Click the video box on this page to see this story as it aired on 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, including a clip from Jerry Kill's postgame address to his team.

He may not have been coaching the Gopher football team against Northwestern, but you have to give Jerry Kill some credit for inspiring them to win.

Kill is still amid a leave of absence from his coaching post as he continues his battle against epilepsy.

Rising before dawn last Saturday, Kill was driven 7-hours to Chicago where he watched the Gophers take on Northwestern from the pressbox. 

"Nobody knew," says defensive back Brock Vereen.

At halftime, he surprised the team by appearing in the locker room and offering an impromptu pep talk.

"You could see everyone had a smile," says receiver Derrick Engel.

The Gophers responded by holding off Northwestern in the second half for  mild upset - their biggest win of the season.

"It was impossible not to give it your all in that second half," Vereen says. "He's just as responsible for that win as anybody."

"He's the toughest guy I think I've ever met," says quarterback Philip Nelson. "That's starting to rub off on us a little bit."

While whatever Kill may have said at halftime seemed to work, it paled in comparison to the emotional address he gave his team after the game.

Kill's voice cracked as he professed joy with the win, pride in his team and a commitment to their future.

"You need to understand that (Northwestern) two weeks ago was ranked 15th in the country," Kill said in the speech which was captured on video by GopherSports.com.

"You don't realize how good you are," he urged. "All you've got to do is just keep working. You're getting better and better."

Kill continued, becoming more emotional as he turned his focus away from what had happened on the field

"I'm tremendously proud of every young man because you don't deserve all the stuff you've had to deal with in this situation," he said, alluding to his leave of absence and the attention that's been given to his epilepsy.

"But it is what it is," Kill said, showing his familiar resolve. "I'm proud of you, I love you.  Keep pushing forward because you've got a lot of great things ahead of you this season."

He concluded by assuring them his visit to the locker room wouldn't be the last during his indefinite leave.

"I'm going to be right there as much as I can be there," he said. "I'm going to give everything I've got."

Kill's leave will continue at least through this weekend's home game against Nebraska, but when asked if he thinks Kill will attend once again, his interim replacement Tracy Claeys laughed at the notion Kill wouldn't be there.

"Well," Claeys chuckled. "The guy drove seven hours to be in Chicago last weekend, I have a feeling he's going to be there for this one."

An extended clip of Kill's postgame speech, which initially was posted on GopherSports.com can be seen by following this link.