Jerry Kill has spent the last 48 hours talking to just about everyone in the state of Minnesota. The new Golden Gophers coach is easy to like, and his personality should help him with the first stages of what looks like a significant rebuilding process in Minneapolis.
Kill took some time to chat with me Monday after his introductory news conference.
Here's Part I of our interview:
At the press conference you talked about not being Minnesota's first choice for this job. Do you mind that? Do you enjoy being the underdog in all of this?
Jerry Kill: Well, I've been fortunate. We've won a lot of big games where I've been. We've beaten some awful good people. I can't control what my name is. I've got a pretty good coach's name. Coach Kill is a good football coach's name now. But I can't change my name. When you have a search, and I've been an athletic director for a short time, it's your job as an athletic director to go out and look for the big names and the people that have been successful. It's not easy to just go lure somebody. That doesn't happen. And then you work it and you do what's best for the university that you're representing.
There are many coaches out there deserving of jobs, and they talked to those people and I'm OK with that. That's their job. That's what they're supposed to do. But they wouldn't have came and talked to me and they wouldn't have hired me if they didn't think I could do the job. It's too critical. This is a critical time for the University of Minnesota with the new stadium. It's a critical time to have success. The good thing about it is I've had a lot of people say, 'Hey coach, were you nervous at the press conference?' I didn't have a note, I never carry a note. I'm just going to be who I am. That's the way I've done it my whole life.
The one advantage I have is I've done it before. I've done it about three or four times, actually, gone in and turned programs around. Was it in the Big Ten? No. I'm coaching in the best football conference in the country. But why not? You only live once, and I like challenges, so I'm looking forward to it.
How will you spend the next few days?
JK: I'm going to be here and then I've got to get back to Northern Illinois, get my desk cleaned off and get some things situated there. I've got to get back here for the recruiting weekend and I'm just going to try and settle in and bring as much stuff as I have. I'm not going back. I've got to go to work.
It's going to be a pure focus on getting to know the University of Minnesota and all the things that I need to understand. Plus, we've got to get the recruits that we have, get that taken care of. That is a priority, plus getting the coaching staff hired and getting the right situation. So I'll have plenty of time to be busy, that's for sure.
What was your perception of this program from the outside?
JK: When [Northern Illinois] came here and played [Sept. 24], I knew about the new stadium and all that. But we pulled up on that bus when I was at Northern Illinois and I go, 'Holy cow. This place made a commitment now. This is an unbelievable facility.' I knew a lot about the university's reputation because I know some people in this area and I have some friends in the area.
I'd heard some good things about it, and I just said, 'Boy, this job would be pretty darn good.' But at the time, I never thought I'd be coaching here. We were fortunate enough to win, kept the nose to the grindstone and then all of a sudden, I'm here today. So it's unique. But I'm a Midwest guy. I just think it's a good fit for my family. I'm excited about it.