Kill excels in art of the deal in U recruiting

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 2, 2012 - 11:35 PM

The Gophers coach eventually gets around to football talk, but he also asks about siblings and touts job opportunities.

Recruiting season finally ends Wednesday, and here's some of what Jerry Kill learned during the blur of the past eight weeks: One recruit's mom makes a terrific lasagna. The Cuban food at another recruit's house is fabulous. And the Flintstone-sized ribeye he had on one home visit? No steakhouse does it better.

Yes, along with the two or three dozen young football players Kill is bringing to Minneapolis once they sign their national letters of intent Wednesday, it's almost inevitable he'll bring home a few extra pounds, too.

"For two months ... you're either eating in kids' homes with their parents, or in the car, on the run, as you drive to the next city," the Gophers coach said. "You eat whatever and wherever you can."

NCAA rules prohibit Kill from talking about members of this year's recruiting class until players have officially signed, but he should have plenty to say. That's because, since the Gophers season ended in November, he's been criss-crossing the country as if he's running for president, flying to Dallas one day, Milwaukee the next, and the Florida panhandle after that, chasing between 40 and 50 potential recruits.

He hustles home on Fridays to act as ringmaster for three-day-weekend official campus visits, then gets in the TSA line at the airport first thing Monday morning, headed someplace else. He's on the road by 7 and usually checks into the next hotel after 10 and begins preparing for the next day's visits. Eventually, Kill said, it's all a blur of boarding passes, rental cars and Marriott lobbies, with a schedule that is sometimes rewritten mid-trip as he reacts to the whims of indecisive or hesitant teenagers.

"Sometimes I'll hear we're in trouble on a recruit -- maybe another [school's] coach has gone in and now he's changing his mind," Kill said. "So you go, 'OK, let's get me down there.'" Some visits are simply "flying the flag," reminding a player how much he's wanted by stopping by his high school to confer with his coach or attend his basketball game.

Some visits are more elaborate, with groundwork done well ahead of time by assistant coaches, each of whom is assigned an area to recruit. Head coaches are allowed to stop by each player's home only once, and almost all of those visits, some of which last for five or six hours, occur in December or January, as close as possible to signing day.

"You don't want to go too early," Kill said, "because some kids [make their choice] on their last impression."

Making an impression is Kill's specialty, however, and one of the cornerstones of his recruiting success. According to recruits and their parents who have sat down in their living room with the Gophers coach, Kill's gimmick is that he doesn't have a gimmick. In a profession that sometimes seems to reward hucksters and used-car salesmen, Kill comes across as the last honest man.

"It was one of the most genuine visits I've ever had. That gentleman made me feel like I was talking to my long-lost cousin," said Norton Hinojosa, father of Miami Central lineman Jordan Hinojosa, who is expected to sign Wednesday. "He doesn't try to tell you what you want to hear. He told my son what would be expected of him, and why Minnesota might be right for him."

Kill tries to make a connection, he said, and gets to know the players' siblings as well as parents.

"I'd say only about 25 percent of the conversation was about the university," estimated Pat Nelson, father of quarterback recruit Philip Nelson. "Most of the time, we were talking about our families. He was genuinely interested in my youngest daughter and her college plans."

He tells stories about his own childhood or football career, explains the benefits that make Minnesota unique -- the Twin Cities' 23 Fortune 500 companies, most per capita in the nation and an advantage in future employment, is a standard pitch -- and answers any question a player has. He shows parents all the text messages his staff sends him, updating him constantly on his current players' progress, academic and athletic. It's basically unscripted, Kill said, though he has thoroughly prepared for each visit; teenagers, he said, can sense when they're being manipulated.

"He's really a fun guy to listen to. He has a lot of stories, but he also wanted to learn about me and what I want [in a university]," Lakeville South quarterback Mitch Leidner said.

One thing Kill doesn't do, recruits say, is demand a commitment. Kill and assistant coach Bill Miller offered Hinojosa a scholarship, the high school player said, but wouldn't allow him to accept it until he had thought about it for a day or two.

Sometimes he leaves disappointed. It's a competitive business, and he can't promise anything but a scholarship and a chance to play football.

Well, and maybe a minor perk or two.

"We were sitting at the dinner table, and Philip mentioned that he's always wore No. 9," Pat Nelson said. "Right there, Coach Kill took out his cell phone and called Minnesota's equipment guy, who told him that the guy who wore 9 [safety Christyn Lewis] was graduating. Coach said, 'No. 9 goes to Philip Nelson.' It was a neat moment."

  • related content

  • U sought speed, in-state stars

    Tuesday January 31, 2012

    Gophers coach Jerry Kill tried to fill specific needs for his team.

  • Chart: Meet the new Gophers recruits

    Wednesday February 1, 2012

    Here are the 29 Gophers players who are expected to make up the incoming class of 2012.

  • Gophers coach Jerry Kill

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 3 3rd Prd 15:56
St. Louis 4
Minnesota 1 2nd Prd 12:45
Calgary 0
Buffalo 1 2nd Prd
Edmonton 2
Anaheim 0 1st Prd 17:42
San Jose 0
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
FIU 56 FINAL
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 68 2nd Half 2:17
Arkansas State 58
Georgia State 74 2nd Half 3:34
Texas-Arlington 69
ULM 44 2nd Half 8:50
Troy 44
Portland 29 2nd Half 15:09
Gonzaga 37
Kentucky 35 2nd Half 19:35
Missouri 25
Eastern Ky 42 2nd Half 16:44
Murray State 36
UAB 39 2nd Half 16:45
Texas-El Paso 34
Idaho State 49 2nd Half 12:14
Northern Colorado 52
UMKC 23 2nd Half
Grand Canyon 43
Chicago State 35 2nd Half
Utah Valley U 42
Colorado 29 1st Half 2:59
USC 33
Cal Poly 4 1st Half 15:26
UC Irvine 10
Hawaii 10 1st Half 15:49
CS-Northridge 6
Pepperdine 0 1st Half 15:43
Pacific 7
Santa Clara 2 1st Half 17:03
San Diego 3
Utah 6 1st Half 15:23
UCLA 4
UC Santa Barbara 5 1st Half 15:45
UC Davis 6
Montana 4 1st Half 16:16
Portland State 2
Montana State 7 1st Half 15:03
Sacramento St 9
Long Beach State 9:30 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Loyola Marymount 9:30 PM
St Marys-CA
San Francisco 10:00 PM
BYU
California 10:00 PM
Washington St
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
ULM 51 FINAL
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
IUPUI 62 FINAL
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
UMKC 59
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 19 2nd Half
LSU 35
Portland State 24 2nd Half 10:53
Montana 53
Sacramento St 37 2nd Half 18:15
Montana State 41
North Dakota 29 2nd Half 16:19
Weber State 31
Ohio State 59 2nd Half 14:16
Wisconsin 45
Northern Colorado 28 2nd Half 16:25
Idaho State 43
BYU 10 1st Half 16:07
San Francisco 7
St Marys-CA 2 1st Half 19:45
Loyola Marymount 0
Pacific 0 1st Half 19:11
Pepperdine 2
Cal-Irvine 8 1st Half 14:54
UC Santa Barbara 3
San Diego 10 1st Half 15:54
Santa Clara 7
UC Davis 4 1st Half 18:53
Cal Poly 4
Long Beach St 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close