Gopher Football: I'm Proud Of Coach Kill For Opening Up About His Epilepsy

USA TODAY Sports

While the subject is clearly a tough one for Coach Jerry Kill, his sit down with the STrib's Joe Christenson will mean a lot to many.

Hats off to you Coach Kill! I'm very proud that you are Minnesota's head coach. What you've just done in speaking out about your struggles with epilepsy took more courage than I ever realized.

"We’ve never been able to have someone who’s willing to stand up and own it," Kopplin said. "And even though it was unfortunate for Coach Kill when his epilepsy became public, it really was the start of people saying, ‘I’ve never been so inspired in my whole life.’

Stigma getting in the way of awareness. It was something I hadn't fully considered until I had a chance to read Joe C's excellent STrib profile. There is a greater stigma out there for people who suffer from epilepsy than I ever understood. I've always come at the issue from a different place than most folks because I work with/around healthcare professionals. Doing so has made me comfortable with things like epilepsy and I also feel like I understand it about as well as a layperson can. But I'm a tech analyst not a clinician. That means I have the opportunity to understand illness on a conceptual level but not always on a personal one. That "understanding" combined with having never known someone with epilepsy personally worked to blind me to the struggles that people who suffer from it endure on a personal and professional level.

So the final regular-season game went on without him. The Gophers stayed close until the fourth quarter, but their offense sputtered in a 26-10 loss.

Hours later, Kill and his wife, Rebecca, walked out of the empty stadium and headed home. It was, he said later, "about the lowest point of my life."

I haven't been really vocal about it, but prior to this feature I was very much in favor of Coach Kill speaking publicly about his seizures. I approached the whole subject too matter of factly, without enough empathy or awareness. I thought it was important to educate the public about what was and was not happening to him from a medical standpoint. Too often I met people who would ask things like "should the U ask Coach Kill to step down? I mean, what if he died on the field?" These are the sorts of questions that betray a lack of understanding of seizures/epilepsy and they frustrated me to no end. I saw how out in front Coach Kill had been about his experiences with cancer and I wondered why he couldn't do the same for epilepsy. I would think things like "it would be good for people who suffer seizures, seizure research, and for the team as well if Coach Kill would speak out." And that was my error. I was making assumptions and approaching the issue as someone who didn't see a difference between cancer and epilepsy. For all my pride in being informed about the medical aspects, I was sadly ill-informed about the social aspects of suffering from seizures.

That day, Kill had his players take a knee, then waved the kids over, saying, "These are my people!" He said others will try taking away their dreams and urged them never to let anyone stand in their way.

"It brought tears to my eyes," said Kristin Anderson, who was there with her two sons — ages 9 and 11 — who both have epilepsy. "If they’re having a frustrating day, it’s nice to be able to think about what Coach Kill had to say."

So I'm glad Coach Kill is speaking out. I'm glad because there are people like me, people who think they understand who have no idea and could use a dose of reality. I'm glad because there are idiots out there who think that Coach Kill and others who suffer seizures are freaks and these fools need to have their baseless nonsense debunked. But most importantly, I'm glad because there are kids who suffer from seizures who can look to Coach Kill and see that the their struggles don't have to define their life.

Hats off to you Coach Kill! I'm proud that you're coaching the Gophers!

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