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September 28, 2012
My playing career at Purdue came to a bittersweet end in 2002.
I had unbelievable experiences on the field and I met the love of my life who would become my wife off the field, but I did not fulfill my ultimate goal: Playing in the NFL.
After my back surgery in April of 2002, I played in a half dozen games that fall until I was given the ultimatum of continuing to play or walking when I was 40. So after my final season I took a year to try to get my back in shape enough to give the NFL one more shot. When it finally sunk into my head that my football playing career was over due to a lower back that never recovered fully from surgery, I knew that I wanted to stay involved with football.
So I approached Coach Joe Tiller about becoming a GA. Coach said that he thought I could help the program and sent me talk with Bill Legg. Coach Legg, who is currently the Marshall offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, was the offensive line coach at the time here at Purdue. Bill sat down with me and we had a heart-to-heart about the joys and sacrifices of being a college football coach. At this time in my life I had just gotten married and we found out two months later that we were pregnant and then we found out two months after that it was twins. So as I explained my life situation with Coach Legg he told me about the realities of coaching. He laid out a few things, like that my wife would technically be a widow for nine months out of the year. I would be working 18-to-20 hour days every day of the week for 11 months out of the year. I had to be prepared to not be able to put down roots anywhere. My kids would grow up without spending much quality time with their dad.
He basically did his very best to talk me out of coaching. I am very grateful that he took the time because all I could see was coaches getting paid very well to coach a game that they loved. Fast forward 10 years and it was one of the most life-altering talks that I have had to date.
I wanted to just give a little insight to the amount of time, effort and sacrifice put into each game that we see on Saturdays. No one should feel sorry for them because they get paid handsomely to coach the game they love, but just understand what goes on in all of college football. It was put into a little perspective for me this summer.
Coach Danny Hope always attends a golf outing that I host and as I was taking him to meet all of the teams, we came across one that had an Austrian player who did not know who the coach was. He asked what coach did and when he told him his reaction was classic: "They pay you to coach a game?"
We all laughed, but as I thought about it more, I considered: Football is not merely a game to most but a lifestyle in the United States. I am not sure if Danny Hope puts in more or less hours than other Big Ten coaches, but if you look at this team you will see that he is putting in some very productive hours. I am not sure how well that comes across a TV screen, but it comes in loud and clear inside Ross-Ade. So if you have an opportunity, grab some tickets and watch this team live. I believe this will be a season to remember.
Follow me on twitter during every game as I will let you in on what I see from the sideline @kelly_kitchel
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