Gophers' captain: 'He's an underdog and we're underdogs'

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2010 - 9:58 AM

Brandon Kirksey, a team captain and junior defensive tackle, said Kill has faced adversity throughout his career and that's an experience he shares with his new team.

Brandon Kirksey

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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MarQueis Gray tweeted what most Gophers football players wondered Sunday night.

"Who is kill and is this another rumor or he is indeed the new head man??" the sophomore quarterback wrote on Twitter.

Gray and the rest of the Gophers met Jerry Kill, the team's newcoach, during a brief gathering Monday morning.

The last time they saw him, he led Northern Illinois to a 34-23 victory over the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium Sept. 25.

During the short introduction, Gray said Kill made Gophers players excited about the future.

"With all the names that I've been hearing on Twitter and in the newspaper, I had no idea it would be Coach Kill," Gray said. "But he's our coach now. And I'm glad we got him."

Gray said Kill didn't have much time with his new team Monday but he made a good first impression.

"He got to show us his personality. He likes to laugh and joke around," Gray said. "That was a plus for me. I like when coaches do that."

Brandon Kirksey, a team captain and junior defensive tackle, said Kill has faced adversity throughout his career and that's an experience he shares with his new team.

"He's an underdog and we're all underdogs. It's a good fit," Kirksey said. "I feel like he's genuine in what he has to say."

Kirksey said Kill earned points with the team when he told players that he's not just concerned about what happens on the field.

"He just has to care for us as people and not just players," he said. "And he already said that's what he cared about."

Matt Garin, a redshirt freshman defensive end, didn't know athletic director Joel Maturi chose Kill until he received a text message from former high school teammate and Northern Illinois linebacker Dan Edem on Sunday night.

"Looks like you guys are getting our coach," the former Eastview standout's note read.

Garin said the frustrated tone of subsequent dialogue with Edem suggested that the Huskies dreaded losing Kill, a good sign for the Gophers.

"He sounded pretty upset because he liked him a lot," Garin said. "He must've done a really good job over there if he was upset about it."

Garin, whom Kill recruited at Eastview, said his team's new coach doesn't fit the profile of the big-name, popular coach he expected the Gophers to hire. But he has proven that he can change a program, Garin said.

"If you look at his track record, he's a winning coach," he said. "And that's more than enough for me."

The Gophers didn't care about the new coach's name, junior running back Duane Bennett said. Players just wanted a good coach, one who could get them going in the right direction.

Bennett said he doesn't know much about Kill yet, but in Monday's team meeting, he presented himself as someone with that ability.

"Great guy. Great head on his shoulders. He really has a grasp of what he's looking to do and what plan he has," Bennett said. "It's something to look forward to."

The junior running back said he knows some supporters wanted a high-profile coach.

But ...

"Names don't bring wins. Our big focus is to bring in a guy who's going to coach us well," he said. "When the wins rack up, I'm pretty sure nobody will ever talk about we should have gotten this guy instead of this guy."

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