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Shafer admires Kill’s perseverance through epilepsy with sister in mind

Shafer admires Kill’s perseverance through epilepsy with sister in mind

cst UM football vs Western Illinois 45751HOUSTON — There’s always a lingering question for Jerry Kill, one that’s brought scrutiny upon the head coach even as he guided Minnesota to an eight-win season and yet another bowl berth.

Are you going to be down on the field for the game? Or up in the press box?

It’s a strange question for most coaches, but for an epileptic like Kill, it’s a legitimate concern. He suffers from frequent seizures, some coming at the inopportune times that are game days.

Some have suggested he should stop coaching because of it. Others simply don’t understand the disease. Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer doesn’t fall into either of those categories. He’s in the category that carries an incredible admiration for the coach.

“But you’ve got to be a tough-ass human being to fight through this epilepsy,” Shafer said at a press conference on Thursday leading up to Friday’s Texas Bowl against the Golden Gophers. “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen my sister on the floor since she was a little kid.”

Shafer’s sister, Heidi, has suffered from epilepsy since she was 10 or 11 years old, Shafer said. He understands the difficulties this disease presents and says the team has taken on Kill’s personality.

“Life is hard,” he said, “and when you add that disease to it, it makes it even harder.”

Many don’t view Kill’s perseverance the same way. Critics view it as hubris. Kill is too proud to give it up, they say, even though he’d be better served away from the sidelines.

“I’ve taken some shots,” Kill said on Thursday. “I am epileptic — I don’t apologize for that.”

So when someone appreciates him, he reciprocates the feeling.

Kill collapsed on the sideline after a game in September. He was having a seizure. Later in the month, Dalton Richey, a football player at Montgomery High School in Texas who also suffers from epilepsy, drew attention when his mother photographed him holding up a sign after a game.

“My name is Dalton and I have epilepsy,” it read. “I stand with Coach Kill.”

Montgomery is just an hour outside Houston, so Kill will get to meet Richey this week.

Shafer also told Kill about his sister, which means he has a phone call to make.

“He was kind enough to reach out and say he would love to give her a phone call,” Shafer said, “and that will make her extremely excited to know that.”

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