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Coaching for the love of the players

A winning team with a winning coach

New Mexico State University football has a 10-3 record currently and a new head coach since 2022. The Aggies won only three games in two combined seasons prior to Coach Jerry Kill’s arrival.  

Last year was Coach Kill’s first season at NMSU. The new head coach made a big turnaround for the team in the middle of the season. The Aggies won five of their last six games and went on to the Quick Lane Bowl Game and defeated Bowling Green 24 to 19.

“I think what’s helped me here is credibility. We have done it every place we’ve been. When I was interim coach at TCU I think our reputation helped us with the players. I have a knack to be able to bring people and kids together and even though I’m older I can still get in their world. If you can get in their world then you got a chance to be successful," says Kill.

Coach Kill has 38 years of coaching experience. He has turned around a lot of college football programs and has won conference and division titles. He was head coach at Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Minnesota. While at Minnesota he led the team to three bowl games. In 2014 Coach Kill was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

It takes a lot of moving pieces make up a successful college football program including staffing, trainers, facilities, academics and more.

Kill says he goes in with the same philosophy for most football programs. “From academics to the training room… I evaluate every phase of those things and I make sure they are to my standard and what I want. If I don’t feel like they are… they are not going to be here. Number one a lot has to do with the strength coach and academic people. I look at those two areas first and make sure were strong enough. What’s our academic standards and what do we need to improve them?”

Nutrition is another important piece of the winning puzzle for Coach Kill. He says, in order to win “they’ve got to be strong, eat right, and do those kind of things.”  

Athletic Director Mario Moccia says, "Jerry has put his stamp on the Aggie football program since Day 1 and it has been incredible to see what the team has accomplished in such a short period of time. Jerry is known as the “fix it guy” around the college football landscape, traditionally his turnarounds come in year three.  For him to win a bowl game in year one, win 10 games and play for a conference championship in year two is nothing short of miraculous.  In addition to the one field success, he has galvanized the community around Aggie football  with his Hard Hat Lunch Pail mantra, as well as his now famous poncho!"

The community support for the Aggies has been positive. Kill says, “The community has been great. They’ve been super good!”

Following the Aggies' victory in the Quick Bowl Game, Kill told the team if they won the bowl game he’d get his first tattoo to commemorate the win. After the victory, Kill got a large tattoo on his right arm to celebrate the team's success.

The fundamentals of the game remain the same but as the world has changed, so have the players. “I’ve had to change my philosophy of coaching through the years because the kids are different. I have adjusted and it’s been fun. I enjoy the kids that’s why I coach. More so than ever the young people need figures that they can respect and can look up to and people that are doing the right things. There’s not a better sport to do it than football. I think our kids need us more now than they ever have because there’s so many distractions...the cell phones started that a long time ago.”

Kill puts in 12 to 15 hours of coaching per day, seven days a week. He has a love for the game but a stronger love for the players. Kill says, “We are trying to save our next group of people and it’s important that we work with these young kids. That’s why I do it… I love the kids.”

“There is a lot of people that are getting out of coaching and there's not enough money at the high school level and I get it, but a high school coach can make more of a difference than a college coach. I’d encourage people to get out and that if you have the opportunity to coach do it.”

Kill is happy with his players’ achievements and especially their huge win over Auburn. He says, “Just seeing the kids smile...they’ve never been this far and there is so many things being done by this group that have never been done before ... so there is a lot of proud moments. There is no question. You go down and you beat a southeast conference team and it’s Auburn and you beat em’, you know you beat em,’ you get after them. That's a big game… you don’t forget those.”

Coach Kill expects the interest in New Mexico State Football to grow, especially with their recent accomplishments. There may even be one or two Albuquerque recruits on the team depending on how things play out.

As for Kill he has no plans for slowing down. Once a coach always a coach? “That’s right, you’re always a coach. I think a lot of people think that’s my name… so that’s alright!”

 He says, “When I get out it’ll be because I’m just tired…it won’t be because I don’t love the kids.”

  • Coach KIll (L) and Auburn coach Freeze after NMSU beats Auburn