Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics
Last week, the Virginia Tech coaches made it clear that they were excited to have veteran coach Jerry Kill join the staff. Head coach Justin Fuente, defensive coordinator Bud Foster, and offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen all spoke highly of his addition to the staff.
Today, Kill made it clear that he himself is just as excited to be joining the Hokies. After a tumultuous last few years, he has found a place where he feels he belongs. A lot of that is due to his respect for Fuente.
"Life's about relationships and trust,” said Kill. “Number one, [Fuente] is a helluva person. Number two, he's a good football coach. Number three, that's the only type of person I'm going to work for."
As far as on field results, Kill has had success in virtually all of the roles he has filled. Kill landed his first head coaching position at Saginaw Valley State, where he achieved a 38-14 record in five seasons.
Throughout the next few years, Kill became the head coach at Emporia State, Southern Illinois, and Northern Illinois, respectively. In 2010, he was hired as the head coach at Minnesota.
Kill was forced to take a leave of absence in 2013 due to health concerns, but he returned in 2014 to lead the Golden Gophers to an 8-5 record. He won Big 10 Coach of the Year honors for his coaching performance that season.
Sadly, after coaching the first seven games of the 2015 season, he was forced to resign due to continued concerns with epilepsy. He returned to Southern Illinois as the interim AD in 2018, but he left that position this month to join Virginia Tech’s staff.
Despite his on field success, Kill has not been exempt from adversity during his career. In addition to the aforementioned epilepsy concerns, Kill also battled kidney cancer in the mid 2000s.
"The kids kept me going," Kill said. "Coaching kept me going. You have stage 4 cancer, and without that, you sit around and think about it, and your life is over. Or you go through seizure situations, and what are you going to do? Are you going to quit, or are you going to keep persevering?”
For Kill, the answer was to keep persevering. That positive attitude has guided him his whole career, and it has now brought him here to Blacksburg.
Kill’s official title is special assistant to the head coach. When asked what that means, he gave a short response.
"My day-to-day is whatever Justin tells me to do," Kill said. "My life's great. I'm not the head coach."
For someone with Kill’s health background, this is a perfect position. He does not have to worry about the stresses of being a head coach, and he can focus his energy on helping the Hokies in any way he can.
As for his first week, Kill said he spent most of his time looking at the offense. Cornelsen said last week that the run game will be an area where the staff turns to Kill immediately, and that seems to have been true this week.
Kill said that one thing possibly holding the Hokies back is their lack of continuity on the offensive line. Virginia Tech has had to rotate a lot of players in and out due to various injuries on that unit.
“The health issue has been difficult, just by watching film,” Kill said. “If we can get people healthy and everyone working together, I like the young back [Keshawn King]. I think he's going to be a great player.”
The Hokies are certainly going to need a boost in the running game this week. They face a stout Duke defensive line who gave up just 3.45 yards per carry to powerhouse Alabama.
Against Furman, freshman Keshawn King had a breakout game with 119 yards on 12 carries. Kill hopes that he can help the Hokies build on that this Friday night.
No matter what happens this Friday, Kill is just happy to be back in the coaching game. He tried to take a break from football all together and even enter the world of athletic administration, but nothing else felt right.
“I am a football coach,” Kill said. “Once you are a ball coach, you are a coach and not an administrator.”