Rutgers coach Chris Ash gave offensive coordinator Jerry Kill, and the rest of his staff, a rare gift following National Signing Day 2017. A grueling three weeks on the road, the 2017 recruiting class culminated Wednesday on National Signing Day.
As a reward, Kill received a rare day off in the world of college football.
For someone with more than 30 years of head-coaching experience, days off are rare and Kill made the most of it. Kill coaches to help people, and does the same in his time away as a massive advocate for epilepsy awareness.
“I'm unique in the fact that I have epilepsy, and I've been able to coach football,” Kill said. “I had to walk away from it but I've been given another chance to coach it. ...
“People don't understand that one out of every 26 people are diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime. There's kind of a stigma with it, and a lot of people don't understand that there are a lot of people that die from the disease. What we're trying to do is bring awareness.”
With faces like Kill, a former Big Ten Coach of the Year, as advocates, the goal is to render the stigma behind epilepsy as obsolete.
“I tried to hide mine for a long time,” Kill said. “I didn't want people to know about it and then I had a seizure at a game. There's a lot of people that will not talk about it because they're afraid to lose their jobs. I know a lot of CEOs, certainly in Minnesota when I was working there, that have epilepsy. They deal with it. “
Kill walked away from a stellar coaching success story at Minnesota because of his battle with epilepsy. During a year away as an administrator at Kansas State, Kill entertained multiple offers to return to the game before he chose Ash's offer at Rutgers.
Kill taught himself a healthier lifestyle.
“If you can get anything out of coach Kill, the message is 'do all of the things I didn't do,”' Kill said. “Certainly when you have epilepsy, you have to be in a routine and you've got to do things a certain way or it can trigger seizures.
“... Everybody's got something. I just happen to have epilepsy and I brought a lot of it on myself because of not eating right, not sleeping well, not exercising. Those three things are the worst things you can do and then being a head college football coach, that doesn't make a lot of sense.”
Rutgers gives Kill multiple opportunities, he said.
On the field, Kill faces the type of challenge he relishes – a rebuild. Kill joins Ash's staff as a veteran offensive mind with young talent in need of development.
Off the field, Kill takes his epilepsy advocacy to the next level in the world's top media market.
“Being in New Jersey and being in this large media market, I think it helps anything,” Kill said. “I think it helps Rutgers football. I think it helps Rutgers University. I think it helps the Epilepsy Foundation. That's what it's all about. I've moved to the East Coast, so to speak, and I think there's even more opportunities to be able to help people.”
Kill made himself available Thursday for a series of interviews on the road to the Super Bowl. Kill, partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation, want to raise awareness during a weekend of massive online engagement.
UCB kicked things off with $26,000 donated in honor of the one in 26 people that receive an epilepsy diagnosis in their lifetime. For more information about donations or how to get involved, CLICK HERE or search for the “Epilepsy Advocate” on Facebook.
The goal? Tweet your “game face” using the hashtag “TackleEpilepsy.”
“We want it as unique as you can get it and we want one right after the other after another,” Kill said. “People need to understand throughout the country, the more people that we can get to post that picture on game day and even before that is that's how we're going to get money for the Epilepsy Foundation.”
If the promotion goes well enough, could fans see Jerry Kill's game face?
“You never know,” he said. “That could be possible. I don't know if anybody would want to see my game face but it could be possible.”
And yes, there is irony in a social-media campaign for the 55-year old coach.
“I'm an old-school guy,” Kill said. “I don't understand this stuff but sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do when you're trying to help a cause.”