Packers hire Nebraska legend Gill

On. Jan. 1, 1984, Turner Gill quarterbacked the tradition-rich Nebraska Cornhuskers to within an eyelash of winning college football's national championship. Twenty-one years later, Gill has accepted a new challenge with the tradition-rich Green Bay Packers.

Gill on Thursday was named director of player development and an offensive assistant coach, filling the void left when Edgar Bennett became Packers running backs coach.

Gill was quarterback of top-ranked Nebraska in the legendary 1984 Orange Bowl against the University of Miami. Gill piloted a last-second touchdown drive to pull Nebraska to within 31-30.

Instead of going for a tie and having to hope the pollsters would vote them national champions, Tom Osborne's Cornhuskers went for a two-point conversion and the win. Gill rolled right but his pass was deflected in the end zone. The loss was one of only two suffered in 30 career starts.

Gill last year guided the wide receivers under first-year Nebraska coach Bill Callahan, who scrapped the Cornhuskers' option-style offense in favor of a West Coast attack. Gill resigned at the end of the season in hopes of landing a head-coaching job.

While he merited interviews at New Mexico State and Sam Houston State, the 42-year-old Gill was passed over.

Looking for work, Gill floated his name around the collegiate and NFL ranks. The Packers bit. Gill has worked with Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley. Rossley was an assistant coach with Montreal in the Canadian Football League when Gill was a quarterback. Later, in 1991, Gill was wide receivers coach at Southern Methodist, Rossley's first season as head coach there.

"I just felt it was a perfect fit for me to take this position and be a great part of the organization as far as helping out the players and also have an opportunity to be on the football field," Gill said in a Thursday conference call.

Gill's job, being a counselor to help rookies and other young players deal with off-the-field and other life issues, will be his first NFL assignment. He has been a college coach since 1990, including from 1992-2003 at Nebraska. Most of those years were spent coaching the likes of Tommie Frazier and former Packer Eric Crouch at quarterback.

"His 14 years as a coach at the University of Nebraska has prepared him well for this experience," Packers coach Mike Sherman said in a news release.

Gill came to Green Bay in hopes of replacing Ray Sherman as wide receivers coach. Instead, Sherman thought Gill would be the right man to fill Bennett's former post.

"I believe Turner Gill has the class, character and talent to fulfill the demands of director of player development," Sherman said.

Gill also will be able to pitch in on the gridiron, though his coaching role has not been determined.

"I just felt it was a perfect fit for me to take this position and be a great part of the organization as far as helping out the players and also have an opportunity to be on the football field," Gill said.

Working in Green Bay won't be much different than working at Nebraska. In Nebraska, the most important day of the week is football Saturdays. In Green Bay, the most important day of the week is football Sundays.

"I understand that there's pressure there to win, just like at Nebraska," Gill said.


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