Tom Izzo: Saunders was competitive but compassionate
What I enjoyed most about him was the guy never changed. From his playing days, to days when he won 60-some games, and then getting released — I never saw him change.
He was competitive but compassionate. And very innovative — innovative in his thinking. He wasn’t afraid to try things. The analytical things — which have become new and modern — Flip was talking about it six, seven years ago. Every new play he could come up with, he sold it. Every new gadget that came out, he bought it.
I used to like the 2-in-the-morning calls when he was watching the QVC channel and ordering some new gadget. He’d call me and I’d be telling him how dumb he is and why is he spending his money on that. If I lost a big game, it seemed like he was always calling me then. I swear he’d order more things than anyone I knew. I’m going to miss those times.
When there were rumors that he was looking at the Minnesota collegiate job and I said to myself, ‘Well, there goes Tyus Jones.’ We were recruiting him hard and I said, ‘If Flip gets the job, he’s going to clean up,’ just because of his personality and the passion he had for that city. He was very proud of Minneapolis — even though he was from Cleveland, Minneapolis was his home.
— Izzo coaches Michigan State and was a longtime friend of Saunders.
Krystal Kill and Tasha Hynes: Saturdays in fall will never be the same
It was so hard to see our dad, the toughest man we know, make the hardest decision of his life. So hard to see him walk away from what he loves — not just the love of the game, but the love for all the people who surround him every day.
It was hard to watch him tell people he loves that he can no longer give them 110 percent. Hard because football has been our life. Hard because we don’t know what Saturdays are going to be like. Hard because we won’t hear “Jer-ry, Jer-ry, Jer-ry” as we leave the field.
But football has blessed our family. It taught us to face challenges together and gave us strength. Most important, football gave us love. We watched Dad inspire millions of people. He became a father to players, helping them become undeniably great men. Along the way, he raised us and was a great husband.
Mom and Dad have given us an incredible journey, and we cannot thank them enough. But now we get to begin a new one, and add another brick to an awesome foundation. Thank you to everyone for being there through these tough times. We will always have our Gopher family in our hearts.
-- Krystal and Tasha are Jerry and Rebecca Kill’s daughters
Eddie Guardado: Hunter a great player, great friend - and better man
I don’t think I have enough words to describe what type of person Torii is. He never forgot where he came from — that’s an important thing — and anyone will tell you that.
He treats everyone like human beings. He treats his family so well. That’s what I like about him, that he’s such a family man.
When I came up, I had Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield as guys I could look up to. Torii is like those guys. When I was playing, he was a little younger but we became real good friends. He’s come out to my celebrity bowling tournament, and he’s done a lot of good things for my foundation. You could not ask for a better friend.
All good things come to an end. He has nothing to be ashamed of. I told him that. But it’s tough to let go. Your body is telling you one thing, and your mind is telling you another. It’s tough.
I know he’s got to be around the team somehow, wherever it might be, the front office or the field. You can’t let someone like that go. He’s meant a lot to the organization. I’m honored to have been his teammate.
-- Guardado is a longtime friend and teammate of Hunter