Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Dave Nelson has been a high school coach in Minnesota for decades, so he's heard this pitch before. The new Gophers coach wants help steering local kids to the university, and he calls a meeting of his prep peers.
None ever seemed so much like one of their own, though.
Jerry Kill "really understands the culture. He started out as a high school coach, and he loved those times," Nelson, head coach at Minnetonka High, said after meeting the new Gophers' coach. "I got the impression that he didn't coach to move up the ladder, but because he did such a good job, that's what happened."
Nelson said he had a good relationship with Tim Brewster and Glen Mason as well. But Kill made an impression like no other. "He's sincere and genuine. I just love his demeanor," Nelson said. "I think he really cares for his players, and his players love to play for him. I think he knows how to win."
For the moment, Kill said, he won just by listening. He introduced himself, described his background -- he led Webb City, Mo., to a 25-1 record in his two seasons there, including a Missouri state championship in 1989 -- then asked them for their input in the Gophers' program.
"There's a lot of experience in that room," Kill said of the nine coaches who made the trip to campus on short notice. "To have the support of high school coaches, it helps a lot. ... I love coaching high school football. I'll probably finish my career helping somebody out."
Three different stories in Tuesday's Star Tribune mentioned the new coach's wife, Rebecca Kill, whom he pointed out at his introductory press conference as proof that his hard work can overcome any weaknesses.
"That's not my daughter, that's my wife," Kill joked. "I can tell you, if I can capture that lady -- and I did that a long time ago; I was 21 years old and she was 19, and we've been married ever since. I wasn't her first choice. I was second or third down the line. I had to work at it.
"But when I want something and I want it bad enough, I'm going to get it. I told her I was going to marry her, right next to her boyfriend at her mama's table, so I am aggressive."
He and his wife, who is also from western Kansas, started the Coach Kill Cancer Foundation, to help cancer patients deal with expenses related to treatment.
OK, so why do I bring this up? Because as was pointed out in emails and during my online chat today, we didn't run a picture of Rebecca Kill. So here she is, above left. Seemed like a terrific woman, very friendly in answering media questions. And a little bit embarrassed about all the attention.
She and the coach have two daughters, one a student at Southern Illinois, one at Northern. The oldest, Krystal, turns 23 on Thursday.
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