Jerry Kill Born: August 24, 1961 (Wichita, KS)
Graduated: Cheney High School, 1979; Southwestern College, 1983
Few coaches have had a tougher road, both personally and professionally, than Cheney native Jerry Kill. His path along the way included numerous road blocks and pot holes, but through it all, Kill has remained a living embodiment of toughness, hard work, dedication, and integrity. At every stop along the way, Kill left a legacy not only in the win-loss column, but on the people he influenced.
A star football player at Cheney High School, Kill chose to attend Southwestern College in Winfield where he played linebacker for the Moundbuilders. Kill was the captain of the football team during his senior season at Southwestern.
Following graduation from Southwestern, Kill taught and coached football for one year at Midwest City High School in Oklahoma before being hired by fellow Kansan Dennis Franchione as an assistant coach at Pittsburg State in 1985. Kill helped the Gorillas to a combined 30-4 record in three seasons before becoming the head coach at Webb City High School in Missouri in 1988. Kill coached two seasons in Webb City, leading the Cardinals to a state championship in 1989, before returning to Pittsburg State as an assistant for fellow Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Broyles from 1990 to 1993.
Kill got an opportunity to be a head coach when he was named so by Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan in 1994. In what would become the trademark of his head coaching career, Kill inherited a team with a losing record and immediately turned the program around. In five seasons at Saginaw Valley State, Kill posted a record of 38-14.
In 1999, Kill returned to his home state as the head coach at Emporia State University where he posted an 11-11 record in two seasons before moving to Southern Illinois University.
The first two seasons in Carbondale weren’t ideal as Kill led the Salukis to a 5-18 record. But, those two seasons helped create a foundation for success that Kill built on. In 2003 in just his third season at Southern Illinois, Kill led the Salukis to a 10-2 record and a Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth for just the fourth time in program history. Over the next four seasons, the Salukis made the playoffs every year as Kill’s teams won forty games while only losing ten.
In 2008, Kill took over as head coach of a 2-10 Northern Illinois University team and led the Huskies to an Independence Bowl appearance in his first season. Kill guided the Huskies to two more bowl appearances in 2009 and 2010.
Kill was named the head coach at the University of Minnesota in 2011. Kill’s Gophers posted a losing season in his first campaign but Kill again led a turnaround, taking Minnesota to three straight bowl games for the just the second time in school history. Kill was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year at Minnesota in 2014.
Kill led his teams to post season play in eleven of twelve seasons at Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Minnesota, while also earning three national coach of the year awards in 2004, 2007, and 2014. Kill was also awarded the National Football Foundation Courage Award in 2009.
Following a public battle with epilepsy, Kill resigned as head coach at Minnesota in 2015 before taking a position in the Athletic Department at Kansas State University. Kill’s combined coaching career record finished at 156-102.
There were many jobs in Kill’s career and none of them were easy. Nearly every one of Kill’s coaching position was a rebuild and when Kill departed, he left those programs in better standing than when he arrived. But, the legacy of Jerry Kill goes much deeper than the results on the field and today, that legacy is honored among the greatest coaches, in any sport, from the state of Kansas.