A 3-8 first season hasn’t dampened Kansas University football coach Turner Gill’s spirits so much to have obscured the big picture.
Today, on Thanksgiving, Gill, like so many others, will step away from his preparation for this week’s Border War showdown with Missouri — 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. — to remember a few things that have helped him get where he is today.
“I’m thankful for my health, I’m thankful for my family, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be at the University of Kansas,” Gill said. “It’s a great university, and I’m thankful for all of the support. More importantly, I love my job. I don’t even really call it a job. I just enjoy working with young people and teaching them about the game of football.”
Even though Thanksgiving is a day for family, Gill will do more than his share of prep work for Saturday. That’s most likely to come when other members of the Gill family are preparing the Turkey Day feast. See, the first-year KU coach doesn’t dare enter the kitchen when the magic is happening.
“I do dishes,” Gill said. “You don’t want me doing anything else. I can’t even boil water, man.”
While Gill plans to mix in some family time with his football responsibilities, his players will be given the opportunity to enjoy the holiday.
“They’re going to end up going with their families,” Gill said. “Those that may not have the opportunities to (do that), some of the coaches will have over. I guess in the past, a lot of the players within this area have invited a lot of the players from out of state into their homes so I think that’s even better. But they’ll be taken care of, eating a lot of turkey and dressing and ham and all that good stuff.”
Junior tight end A.J. Steward, who hails from St. Louis and was still deciding whether or not he would make the trek home, said he was only sure of one thing this Thanksgiving — good food.
“I am probably going to go home,” Steward said. “I live only four hours away, but if I don’t make it home, I will just go to one of my teammates’ houses. I plan on having a good meal either way.”
Marshall back in action
As people everywhere celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, pie, football and naps, KU sophomore D.J. Marshall will celebrate being thankful to be alive.
Last fall, Marshall, a defensive end from Mesquite, Texas, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, and in November he began the fight of his life.
From the very beginning, Marshall remained positive that football once again would have a place in his life.
“I am very thankful for the support that I’ve received from my family, my teammates and coaches, and from our medical staff,” Marshall said in a release last November. “I am going to beat this disease with their help and my hard work. I can’t wait to get back on the field.”
That day came Tuesday, when, after numerous trips in and out of the hospital and several different types of treatments, Marshall suited up in full pads for the first time in more than a year.
“It’s been an inspiration for everybody to know that you have hope,” Gill said of Marshall’s impact on the teeam. “You don’t ever give up, you always get back up and keep going again. You keep believing. You have faith. You have faith in your doctors, you have faith in your family, you have faith in your teammates, you have faith in your coaches. He’s demonstrated that.”
And it’s paying off. Though Marshall has eased back into football drills slowly, Gill said a few weeks ago that the 6-foot-3, 235-pound defensive lineman officially was “cancer-free” and he expected him to be available for spring drills four months from now.
“I’m excited for him,” Gill said. “I know he’s excited about it. And he’s looking forward to moving on to the future. Obviously, there’s been a lot of not-so-good days for him. But how he’s been able to learn from the past and move on for the future, he’s a great example of a person you want to be around.”