LAWRENCE — For the most part, Kansas coach Turner Gill has come off as a pretty mild-mannered guy during his eight-plus months in Lawrence. Sure, he can be boisterous when the situation demands something extra, but overall, he's tried to keep his emotions in check — especially when it comes to his public appearances.
Well, all of that will go out the window on Saturday. It's game day, and Gill admits that on those 12 days in the fall, he doesn't feel much different from the kid who quarterbacked Nebraska to the 1983 Orange Bowl.
"When you get ready to play a football game, even as a coach, I still probably have that same excitement I did as a player," Gill said. "I still have those little butterflies as you first go out for warm-ups and right before the first snap."
Gill's first game as KU's coach will have a nostalgic feel to it because of the people surrounding him. Gill's parents, who have not seen him coach a football game and have not seen him in football mode at all since 1983, will make the trip up from Fort Worth, and support their son. Gill will also get to experience game day with his oldest daughter, Jordan, who has been a KU student for the past couple years.
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"We are all here together as a family," Gill said. "You never dream of that actually happening. So just from that perspective (it's special)."
Saturday will also be special for Gill's players, who have been waiting to see what game day is going to look like and feel like under Gill.
"I expect game day to be so filled with excitement," KU defensive tackle Patrick Dorsey said. "Coach Gill has been preparing us since he got here. We're gonna be ready to go full-blast."
Gill has been preaching to his players from the start about enjoying the college football experience. That's the last 'E' in the B-E-L-I-E-V-E acronym that defines Gill's program.
"That's gonna be the main priority," Dorsey said. "He wants us to have fun."
Gill has already prepared the Jayhawks for the details of a Gill game day. He wants each player to do what he needs to do to get ready to play, and then 75 minutes before kickoff, the team will go into a predetermined routine (no details were provided).
Gill says he is not a man who has a lot of superstition, but he does find time for reflection the night before a game.
"I almost kind of play the game, each play, and go through scenarios," Gill said. "What happened on first down, second down, third down, fourth down, making decisions as I'd have to make."
As for the 60 minutes that will come to define him, Gill says that he will let his coordinators call the plays. He will contribute general thoughts about the direction he'd like them to take — like more running on offense or more blitzing on defense.
And when things go well, Gill won't hesitate to enjoy the moment.
"I believe emotions are appropriate," Gill said. "I'm probably a guy that's a little different on game day than I am out here in the public. I love the game of football. You gotta play the game with passion, gotta coach the game with passion."