Gophers' assistants don't expect Kill to miss any games
By Jon Krawczynski
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jerry Kill and the rest of Minnesota's new coaching staff did their best in the offseason, trying to prepare the Gophers players for the possibility of what happened last weekend at TCF Bank Stadium.
Still, no amount of talk could brace them for actually seeing their leader down on the sidelines, shaking violently in the throes of a seizure in the closing seconds of a loss to New Mexico State.
The assistants who have been with Kill for more than a decade had been through this before and knew that it wasn't as bad as it looked.
For those who were playing just their second game under Kill, it was an experience that shook them to the core, and one they have to try to put out of their minds as they get set for Saturday's game against Miami of Ohio.
"Even though this isn't new to us, it's new to them," said offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, who has coached with Kill for 12 years. "We need to be understanding of that. It's a shock to the system to see something like that come about."
Kill remained in a hospital for precautionary reasons on Tuesday, but two of his closest confidantes said they expect him to be on the sideline this weekend.
Limegrover and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys took over for Kill at his weekly media briefing. They've each been with him for at least a dozen years, so they've seen him go through this before. Kill twice had seizures on game day while coaching at Southern Illinois, so they knew how to deal with it.
The players were still coming to grips with it.
"You just don't know how to prepare for that," center Ryan Wynn said on Tuesday. "It was very shocking and I hope I don't ever have to witness that again, from him or anyone else."
The episode had coaches around the country watching with concern, knowing full well the toll that their demanding profession can exact on the body.
"Absolutely it did hit home with me and my family," said Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who missed two games last season after suffering a minor heart attack following a victory over Notre Dame. "My immediate reaction was to pause and say some prayers for coach Kill and his family.
"What people need to understand I think is that coaches are just like everybody else in this world, and there are going to be times when things happen to all of us. Sometimes people think these things don't happen to people in the public eye, but they do."
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has been a friend for years and was watching the game at home when he saw Kill go down.
"Since I've known coach Kill for a long time, I was well aware of his history," Bielema said. "My place was quiet. I had a few people over to watch the game. It was spooky. I said some prayers, and my thoughts went out."
Even though he has only played two games for Kill, Wynn is already all too familiar with his coaching style. On game day, Kill is a red-faced ball of energy, hollering at officials, encouraging his players and stomping up and down the sidelines at a furious pace.
Team physician Pat Smith said a combination of stress, dehydration and the warm temperatures all may have contributed to the seizure. He said doctors were looking at adjusting his medication and giving him more fluids during the game to prevent it from happening again.
Calming the coach down may be another matter.
"That's the tough thing about Coach Kill, it's his passion that makes him a great coach," Wynn said. "So I feel that if he came in there more calmed down like he was on a muscle relaxant out there, it wouldn't be the same coach. I just hope he and the doctors have figured out something to help him prepare for his game demeanor."
Claeys has spoken to Kill several times and visited him in the hospital, and he said the coach is already raring to go again.
"He definitely lets it be known he's ready to be back and right now," Claeys said. "I think that Doc Smith put it best, when you have him caged up, can do some things, you need to do it, because once he's out, he's going to hit it full stride again. They're just making sure, that's all."
Kill has never missed a game after having a seizure, and his assistants don't expect that to change this time.
"There's a plan there in place in case he doesn't," said Claeys, who would take over if Kill couldn't make it. "I would be totally shocked. He showed up every time. I will be shocked if he's not there."
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this story.