Southern Illinois football coach Jerry Kill had a cancerous
tumor removed from a kidney last month, choosing to delay the
operation until after the season. The 44-year-old coach expects a
full recovery and doctors found no evidence the cancer spread.
"I'm doing fine," said Kill, whose cancer was first reported
Tuesday by the Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale, home of
the Salukis. Cancer "is just an obstacle that's come up, and now I
have to overcome it."
Kill, who told the Salukis of the cancer last week, said doctors
have trying to determine if the cancer was linked to his seizures
last fall, including one on the sidelines in the waning seconds of
an Oct. 15 home loss to Illinois State. Kill said it's possible the
medical issues are related.
At that time, the university attributed the seizures to an
unspecified condition that occasionally manifested itself with such
episodes but was not considered life-threatening.
But on Tuesday, Kill said that while undergoing tests after the
seizures, doctors uncovered the kidney problem not long after the
Salukis notched their biggest victory of last season, knocking off
Western Kentucky -- then Division I-AA's top-ranked team -- on the
road Oct. 27.
Athletic director Paul Kowalczyk said Kill apprised him of the
diagnosis from the outset, but the coach did not want to make his
condition public, fearing it would become a distraction.
"He knew he had a window to work with," Kowalczyk said
Tuesday. "It's his body, his issue and I've respected that. With
anything else Jerry's taken on, I have all the confidence he'll win
The Salukis' season ended Dec. 3 with a loss to Appalachian
State in the quarterfinals of the Division I-AA playoffs. Kill had
the cancer surgery about a month later, spending a few days in the
hospital before he resumed recruiting.
About 102,000 people worldwide die from kidney cancer every
year. In the U.S., about 32,000 people are diagnosed each year with
the disease, which accounts for 3 percent of all adult cancers and
occurs most often in those 50 to 70, twice as often in men than in
On Tuesday, Kill was back in the office, arriving in time for 6
a.m. workouts and planning to head home 12 hours later.
"I really haven't had any recovery time," Kill said as he
continued preparing for spring drills that begin March 29. "I'm
still swelling and a little sore. But I'm not one to sit around.
The busier you stay, the less your mind worries about something you
Kill is credited with resurrecting a Salukis program that last
season -- his sixth at Southern -- won its third-straight Gateway
Conference title and its first I-AA playoff game in 22 years.
Medical problems have never slowed Kill. A day after being
released from the hospital after last October's sideline seizure,
Kill was on the sidelines but largely an adviser when the Salukis
beat Indiana State. Kill also had a seizure in November 2001
shortly after the Salukis lost to then-Southwest Missouri State,
and he returned to coach the next week.
"I've been firmly committed to SIU, and I've given every ounce
to SIU and its football program. I will continue to do that," he
said. "Am I a little slower and at a different pace right now?
Yeah. But I can be right now."
He expects to use the cancer as a motivator.
"When I tell the players, 'Hey, you've got to suck it up.
Life's not always fair, and you've got to battle through
adversity,' they can look at me and know," he said.
Southern Illinois football coach Jerry Kill had a cancerous tumor removed from a kidney last month, choosing to delay the operation until after the season.