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.
The Gophers' succession plan, as well-oiled as any vice president's, kicked into gear once news spread that Jerry Kill had been hospitalized with another seizure on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, as he did a year ago and whenever necessary before that, will handle Kill's day-after media obligations, then presumably conduct the Gophers' team meeting and Sunday practice if Kill is still recovering.
The football team won't notice any disruption, because Kill's longtime coaching staff has had plenty of experience in stepping in whenever their coach is stricken.
Here's hoping it's a brief fill-in, and that Kill is back at work as fast as possible. The university did not reveal how serious Kill's seizure was, only that it required hospitalization. But as last year showed, it's difficult to focus on football when something so much more serious is at stake.
Kill will hate that, of course, will dread the attention that comes from his condition. And he will be disappointed that questions about his health will come to the fore once again. But he conceded in July, just a few days before opening training camp, that the questions would never go away.
"You can't ever say that it's a non-issue. You can't predict what will happen," Kill said. "But I know that I've worked very hard. I've lost 12 or 13 pounds, I walk every day, I've been to the Mayo Clinic and got a clean bill of health. I'm cancer-free. So I feel very good. I'm in good shape."
That doesn't mean he's seizure-free, however, as Saturday's relapse proved. Kill appeared completely normal in his post-game press conference, though he had been unusually animated during an extended tirade at an official who called a penalty on the Gophers.
The stress of a football season obviously triggers something in his nervous system, and Kill said he spent the off-season dealing with that reality.
"I can't control everything, but I've done everything I can to beat this. I don't want to let our kids down, or our fans," Kill said. "I'm well-prepared, I think."
The last seizure that Kill revealed publicly occurred on the Gophers' team flight home from Northwestern last November. Kill said he "blanked out" for just a few seconds, a minor incident that only a few on the plane even realized had occurred. And he was back at work the next day.
"You come out to practice [and see], I can still get after people's tail end pretty good. I"m pretty scrappy, so I think I'll be fine," he said then. "My health situation is something that can be controlled, and every once in a while, something might happen. But I'm not going to let that define me. My situation is going to be with me for the rest of my life, so I deal with it. ... I'm not going to cheat the University of Minnesota, and I'm not going to cheat our fans. I'd walk away from it" before allowing it to affect the program, he said.
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