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Kill a finalist for Uplifting Athletes award

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COACH KILL FILE 12112007.jpg
The Southern File Photo Former SIU coach Jerry Kill gives instructions to players during the Salukis' game in 2007.

University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill has been named one of five finalists for the 2011 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award. The honor is presented annually to recognize a leader in the world of college football who has realized their potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community. More than 30 million Americans are affected by rare diseases.

The third annual award winner will be determined by an online vote that began Monday. The champion will be announced at a public awards ceremony at the end of the month with details to be released at a later date. Previous winners include American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff (2009) and Dickinson College quarterback Ian Mitchell (2010).

After being diagnosed with kidney cancer, a rare disease, during his tenure at Southern Illinois University, Kill started Coach Kill Cancer Fund to assist low-income Southern Illinois residents with medical costs because of cancer or other childhood diseases. Kill said he doesn't want his legacy to be what he accomplished on the field. He wants to continue to inspire people battling cancer.

"I think I'm proof that you can have a disability and still conquer your dreams," Kill said. "I will continue to give back and tell oth-ers that they too can survive cancer."

Coach Kill Cancer Fund was established in 2006 with cooperation from Southern Illinois Healthcare. Since that time, hundreds of Southern Illinois families have received assistance from the fund. The fund has raised nearly $425,000 since its inception.

"A total of 430 families have been helped directly and numerous others indirectly through the fund," said Woody Thorne, vice-president for community affairs for SIH. "It's not only about 430 families, it's a significant amount of major resources that have been raised and provided to those families that have helped with issues such as transportation, lodging and medication."

Kill's on-field legacy at SIU is also impressive.

He took over a downtrodden program in 2001. Kill's team won just one game his first season and just four the second season. However, by 2003 Kill's Salukis made the school's first playoff appearance in 20 years. That started a string of seven consecutive playoff runs.

Kill took the Northern Illinois University coaching job following the 2007 season. He remained at Northern Illinois until taking the Minnesota job earlier this year.

The other 2011 finalists: North Carolina State offensive coordinator Dana Bible, UCLA running back Derrick Coleman, Princeton running back Jordan Culbreath and Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien.

- Uplifting Athletes provided the information for this report.

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