Archive for Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not his true calling: It’s a good thing Turner Gill gave up baseball

Turner Gill (7), then a shortstop for Nebraska, catches a high throw from home plate as a Kansas base-runner steals second. Gill, now Kansas University’s football coach, had a short stint in the minors, but quickly learned his career path was in football.

Turner Gill (7), then a shortstop for Nebraska, catches a high throw from home plate as a Kansas base-runner steals second. Gill, now Kansas University’s football coach, had a short stint in the minors, but quickly learned his career path was in football.

December 22, 2009


Kansas Head Football Coach Turner Gill

Turner Gill was named the head coach of the Kansas football team Sunday, December 15, 2009.

When Turner Gill was named Kansas University’s new football coach, I told our desk people I thought we had an old black-and-white print of him in our photo files.

So I went to search one of the drawers in the large sports-department filing cabinet, found the G section, shuffled through some photos, and there it was — a picture of Gill playing shortstop for Nebraska in the early 1980s.

Here was one of the best quarterbacks in NU’s storied football history, and we had retained a picture of him playing baseball. Go figure.

Well, I could say we kept that pic because we knew Gill would become KU’s football coach a quarter of a century later, but who would believe that?

In retrospect, I imagine we kept it because we figured at the time Gill had a brighter future in pro baseball than he did in pro football.

Gill didn’t project as an NFL quarterback, but he did play professionally for a couple of years for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.

After suffering a concussion in the last game of the ’85 season, Gill was advised to give up football. He was only 23 years old, so he opted for pro baseball instead, and for the next three summers toiled in the low minors.

When it comes to baseball, there are two categories of players — those who can hit, and those who can’t. And, like countless others before and after him, Gill fell into the latter category.

Gill played two summers for a Cleveland Indians farm team in Williamsport, Pa., home of the Little League World Series and, to be frank, hit like a little leaguer — .189 in 1987 and .195 in 1988.

And so — again like countless pro baseball players before and after — Gill entered the real world, where he became a college football coach. (Granted, some would say football coaching isn’t the real world, either, but no one can deny the money is real).

Trivia question: Can you name the only other KU head football coach who played minor-league baseball?

Answer: Bob Valesente, the Jayhawks’ head coach in 1986 and 1987, was an outfielder in the low minors for a couple of seasons in the 1960s. And, you guessed it, Val couldn’t hit, either.

As I mentioned, Gill wasn’t regarded as an NFL prospect. Few Nebraska quarterbacks were in those days because the Cornhuskers were primarily a running team, lining up in the I-formation and daring other teams to stop them.

One of those teams was, of course, Kansas, and the Jayhawks were grist for the mill all three years Gill played under center for coach Tom Osborne’s juggernaut.

In 1981, when Gill was a sophomore, the Cornhuskers had to rally in the second half to post a 31-15 victory over KU. A year later, NU romped, 52-0. Then, when Gill was a senior in 1983, Mike Rozier ran for 285 yards and four touchdowns in a 67-13 Nebraska runaway.

Interestingly, though, in each of the three games Gill started at quarterback against Kansas, he threw one TD pass. No more, no less.

A little more than eight months from now, Gill will make his debut as coach of the team he beat like a drum when he was a player.

That’s a good thing, though, because, from all indications, Gill is much, much better in a coaching box than he was in a batter’s box.


hail2oldku 8 years ago

I sure hope Gill can coach better than Valesente did. I would venture to say that those two seasons were worse than the Terry Allen years.

Mel Briscoe 8 years ago

he's definitely not a bad looking fellow, that's for sure.

bshm 8 years ago

You do realize that Mangino was 25-35 in his first five years here at KU before eventually winning the Orange Bowl and multiple National Coach of the Year honors, right? My point being, is that every head coach has to start somewhere, and unfortunately for most of them the resources aren't in place to start winning right away.

Rickyonealku 8 years ago

Happy Holidays and Welcome Coach Turner Gill.

deskboy04 8 years ago

He is replacing a legend. Coach Mangino will be missed.

starliterambler 8 years ago

are u kidding when u said mangino is a legend give me a break

BigAl 8 years ago

One winning Big-12 season out of 8 is not legendary. Losing 7 of his last conference games is not legendary. Being a bully is not legendary. It was time for Mangino to go. Welcome Coach Gill!!!

Jeff Kilgore 8 years ago

Legend? Legend? One winning season at KU out of eight cannot be a legend.

Meanwhile, Chuck et al are often targets of ridicule from left field. Excellent job, Chuck, to remember that pic after all these years!

Toe, not enough on Gill. He's our new coach. I'm interested. If you're not, then you know what to do. Don't read it. I'm excited to see if he can review this very disappointing season.

Welcome, Coach Gill! Rock Chalk!

Kevin Randell 8 years ago

Well, unlike most coaches...this one has the money, and the facilities to support him. I will give him a pass this first year because he will have to reprogram the current players and recruit the players he needs. But the second year, we should see some results. Orange but getting back to a bowl and not going through a 7 game losing streak will be a nice start.

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