CARTERVILLE — Not far from the lakehouse he still calls home in the offseason, Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill appeared at a local 5K run/walk fundraiser for a longtime friend and his cancer fund on Saturday.
Liberty Wealth Management’s first annual 5K drew 250 participants in rainy and cold conditions at Walker’s Bluff. Proceeds from the event went toward the Coach Kill Cancer Fund, which helps Southern Illinoisan patients and their families with medical costs and associated expenses.
Alongside former SIU quarterback Joel Sambursky, who owns Liberty Wealth Management in Carbondale, Kill spoke before the race and visited with folks after he walked the course.
“This is where I raised my kids. This area will always be home to me,” Kill told the runners and walkers before the race. “Just know that you’re making a difference in people’s lives today.”
Kill led SIU to four straight Gateway Conference championships between 2001 and 2007 and helped the Salukis to their first playoff berth in 20 years in his third season in 2003.
That squad finished 10-2, but after helping lead the Golden Gophers to their first bowl game since 2009 last year, Kill, 51, is hoping for big things in his third year in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“Well you know we’re a young group. We’ve only had one recruiting class. This is our second one that’s coming in, coming in June,” Kill said. “(Strength and conditioning) coach (Eric) Klein is up to his normal work. He’s done a good job of developing some of the kids that were within our program, and mixing in those recruits, and, changing that culture is always a challenge, but I think we’re very similar to what we were at Northern Illinois in the second or third year, at Southern in the second or third year. We made strides, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Minnesota won six games, total, in Kill’s first two seasons as the head coach after leaving Northern Illinois. The Gophers finished 6-7 overall and 2-6 in the Big 10 Conference last year.
Texas Tech returned an interception 39 yards in the final seconds and hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired to beat Minnesota, 34-31, in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston.
Kill could return 10 starters on offense, including the entire offensive line, quarterback Phillip Nelson and running back Donnell Kirkwood, and six starters on defense this fall.
On Twitter: @THefferman_SI