Top college football coach’s journey to #TackleEpilepsy

(BPT) – The year 2000 brought a new millennium, and for college football coach Jerry Kill, it was a year that would change his life forever. One of the most respected names in college football, Kill has coached at the collegiate level for more than 20 years, rising all
the way to the Big 10 where he was named Coach of the Year in 2014 as the head coach of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

But the coaching success is only part of Kill’s story; his battle with epilepsy dates back to the night in 2000 when he experienced his first seizure. While he wouldn’t be officially diagnosed for five years, the year marked the beginning of Kill’s life with epilepsy.

Today, Coach Kill is a passionate advocate for epilepsy, and even with the demands of his new position as offensive coordinator at Rutgers University, he devotes much of his time to supporting those living with epilepsy and raising awareness of the disease. In
2016, he was presented with the Hero of Epilepsy Award from the Epilepsy Foundation. Kill frequently speaks at conferences, founded the Chasing Dreams Epilepsy Fund, and, most recently, has teamed up with UCB and EpilepsyAdvocate on the social media campaign #TackleEpilepsy to help raise awareness of epilepsy during the football post season. Approximately one in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime.

Early memories

Long before Kill’s journey led him to become an inspirational epilepsy ambassador and advocate, it began with a seizure.

“I was alone in my bedroom when it occurred,” Kill remembers. “At that time I didn’t know I’d experienced a seizure, because I wasn’t sure what a seizure was.”

The demands of Big Ten football

Kill was named head coach of the University of Minnesota’s football team in 2011, and though he was continuing to experience seizures, he refused to let them prevent him from coaching at the game’s highest level. However, the grind of being a Big Ten coach started to affect his health. “Being a college football coach is an extremely stressful job,” Kill says. “We work 16 hours a day, seven days a week during the season. In the off-season, we’re constantly on the road recruiting. I was often sleeping only two or three hours a night and I wasn’t eating properly.”

The grind finally took its toll, and in 2013, Kill was forced to miss a game for the first time in his career. Leading up to the team’s road game at Michigan, Kill estimates he suffered more than a dozen seizures over a two- or three-day period.

While his absence was taken hard by many, Kill chose to focus on the positive. He embraced the outpouring of support he and his family received from his players, fans and the state of Minnesota as a whole. And with his wife by his side, he began working with a specialist to get his epilepsy under control.

Going forward to #TackleEpilepsy

Today, Kill is able to continue to coach the game he loves and focus on staying healthy, managing his epilepsy, and raising awareness.

That’s why he’s partnering with UCB and EpilepsyAdvocate to support the #TackleEpilepsy campaign to raise epilepsy awareness. The #TackleEpilepsy campaign invites people to take a picture of their best “game face,” upload the photo to their Facebook pages using the hashtag #TackleEpilepsy, and tag friends to spread awareness. UCB will donate $ 26,000 to the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of #TackleEpilepsy participation. This represents the one in 26 people who will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder sometimes called a seizure disorder because seizures are the primary symptom. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases worldwide; more than 65 million people worldwide live with the disease, including an
estimated 3 million in the U.S.

Learn more about #TackleEpilepsy and check out some of the best game faces on the EpilepsyAdvocate Facebook page. You can follow Coach Kill on Twitter at @JerryKillCoach.

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