Jerry Kill has been in the Twin Cities this weekend to promote his book, “Chasing Dreams: Living My Life One Yard at a Time.’’ Kill’s ongoing popularity in Minnesota was demonstrated when a private signing on Friday raised nearly $200,000 for the Epilepsy Foundation.
I talked to Kill for an hour on the radio Thursday and gave him my theory as to why he was quick to be embraced as the Gophers football coach.
Remember, Kill was about the sixth choice in Joel Maturi’s search to replace Tim Brewster, who had been fired in October 2010. After hearing the possibility of bigger names, the initial reaction of the local sporting public to hiring a coach from the Mid-American Conference was tepid, at best.
Yet, it took only a few days for Minnesotans to come around on Kill, and here’s my history lesson on that:
When it comes to football, the Vikings own the Twin Cities, and that has been the case for almost 50 years.
The Vikings represent the major league attitude of the metropolitan area, now more than ever with our $1.15 billion gift to the coffers of the NFL and to Zygi Wilf, the New Jersey real estate man.
You have to get outstate (don’t give me that “Greater Minnesota’’ nonsense, OK?) to find true devotion for the football Gophers. The more rural the location, the more likely the discovery of third- or fourth-generation Gophers zealots, with a chain of loyalty going back to Bernie Bierman and his national championships before World War II.
Kill arrived in December 2010 and started talking with a twang that was pure country. Folks in Fergus Falls and Willmar and Blue Earth said: “The new coach sounds like my grandpa. He’s one of us.’’
It helped that Kill was replacing an over-the-top salesman who had taken the Gophers back to the depths, and there was empathy for Kill’s epilepsy struggle, and he won some in 2014, but we liked him before that.
We liked him because he was country, and at its soul, the greatest appeal of Gophers football is country, too.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Underrated Gophers coaches since Murray Warmath (1954-71):
• Cal Stoll (1972-78): Era of tough nonconference schedules. Close to a full turnaround in 1977.
• Lou Holtz (1984-85): Embittered many by leaving quickly. Restored talent to program at its nadir; plus, a genius of offense.
• Glen Mason (1997-2006). Maturi’s No. 1 blunder as AD: Impulsively firing Mason with no thought on how to replace him.
Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.