Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has some deep ties to Missouri and Kansas football.
Kill’s whose coaching stops include two stops at Pittsburg State as a coordinator and two-year stints as the head coach at both Webb City (Mo.) High School and Emporia State.
Kill coached Webb City from 1988-89.
He had been Pitt State’s defensive coordinator for three years and would go on to be the Gorillas’ offensive coordinator for four years, but he has a soft spot for those years in the prep ranks.
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“That was my first head coaching job and, to go over there and go 25-1 and win a state championship, it’s a time that was special,” Kill said. “I’ve been blessed, and that was part of the journey, where I started. It was a great time. I promise you I’ll never forget when we pulled that bus into Webb City and we got carried from the town to the school. I wasn’t as heavy then, so I was easier to carry.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel became acquainted with Kill after he moved to Southern Illinois in 2001 when he accompanied his staff to soak in Tigers’ practices on two occasions.
Pinkel, the 2014 SEC coach of the year, and Kill, the 2014 Big Ten coach of the year, have been friends ever since. Both value discipline and loyalty, which is evident by the continuity of their staffs.
“I just know Jerry and what he’s done in Minnesota is no surprise to me,” Pinkel said. “I’ve known him over the years and he’s done a great job.”
Coming into focus
There was a method to Pinkel’s decision to bring Missouri to Orlando on Dec. 22: boring his players into focus.
“Our players want to play football now,” Pinkel said. “We have been out here for a while, so it’s been fun. I think we’ve also focused up pretty good. That’s the whole key in bowl games.”
Missouri arrived 10 days ahead of its game, giving the players a few days off for sightseeing before its first Sunshine State practice on Christmas Day.
“I wanted to go a little bit earlier just because there’s so many great things to do and I wanted our players to have a great experience here,” Pinkel said. “There’s also some belief that if can you get down a little bit earlier, it kind of gets old a little bit at the end and you could focus up a little bit better.”
MU dedicates game to Steckel
The Citrus Bowl will be Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel’s final game with the program after 14 seasons on Pinkel’s staff.
Whether or not Steckel likes it, it’s been a focal point for the Tigers in Florida.
“We’ve been on him all week a little bit,” Pinkel said. “We’re obviously dedicating this game to him, which is no surprise. Coach Steckel’s been with me for 19 years as a coach — five years (at Toledo), 14 years here in Columbia at the University of Missouri.”
Steckel was introduced Dec. 14 as Missouri State’s new head coach.
“I’m so happy for him, because he wants that opportunity and he’s going to take it,” Pinkel said. “He’ll do a great job there, but, certainly, we’ll miss him. Our players certainly love him also. We’ve got a real tight family atmosphere, but they all recognize that that’s one of his dreams, so hopefully we can play well.”