With the weather outside not cooperating with the intended University of Minnesota spring practice football schedule, the Golden Gophers make do by bringing practice indoors to the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex and along with it hundreds of fans to watch the team in a full-contact scrimmage.
It was business as usual for Jerry Kill’s team as much of the early parts of practice No. 12 of 15 were organized drills and work with individual groups of players with various coaches.
The highlight of Saturday’s open practice was the scrimmage that lasted for about 45 minutes and the fan participation portion that wrapped up the day with over 300 fans on the field to add the pressure and excitement of a raucous crowd on some field goals for senior kicker Chris Hawthorne.
Many of the fans in attendance were from the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, which organized a large group of “Shining Stars” — children with epilepsy that can connect with others suffering from the syndrome. These children and their families were coach Kill’s personal guests for the event and were given a special gift from the team.
Kill’s battle with epilepsy is well publicized due to the multiple seizures he has suffered during games in his short time as the head coach of the Gophers.
He used the end of the scrimmage to address the players and children specifically and had them all take a knee around him so that he could communicate with the group as a whole. He welcomed the children to his side by saying, “Where is everyone that’s just like me?”
His speech to the group was full of encouragement to not only the children, but also the players. Coach Kill pushed for everyone to “chase your dreams” and that “anything you want to do, you can do it. Keep fighting!”
He then gathered the group together to break the huddle by having everyone shout “1-2-3-Family!”
It was a special moment to have everyone on the field for the pep talk and for the autograph session that followed between the children and the players. Many of players posed for pictures with attendees and the occasional football was tossed around between them.
There were plenty of smiles on the faces of the children as they walked away from the event. Kill also included in his speech for all within ear shot that they “love everyone” and asked individual children what spots they play in order to further push across his idea that all the children with epilepsy could do anything they wanted and for them to “chase their dreams”.
Coach Kill invited all fans to TCF Bank Stadium next Saturday for the Spring Game that is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. CT. Hopefully mother nature will cooperate and those fans wont have to bring their snow shovels to clear out the stadium for the final practice of the spring for the team.
Yesterday’s practice was originally scheduled to be held at TCF Bank Stadium. Fans would have needed those shovels to find their seats.