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Turner Gill

Turner Gill recently stepped down as Liberty's head football coach.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

Turner Gill was the smoothest Nebraska quarterback I've had the pleasure to watch. Maybe not the best, but the smoothest. He was a smooth runner. His throwing motion was smooth. His deftly guided "The Scoring Explosion" attack. He had nary a weakness.

I've always viewed Gill through that prism. He was an enormous talent. But he also had outstanding character and carried that trait into coaching. Last week, when the 56-year-old announced his retirement from the profession, I was captivated because of my high regard for the legendary Husker who ran the option play with so much grace it seemed he was put on earth to do it.

Thousands of Nebraska fans of a certain age still hold Gill in high regard. Ron Brown holds Gill in high regard, as well. Brown worked alongside Gill for a dozen years as Husker assistant coaches and under him for three years at Liberty (2015-17). Of all Gill's positive traits, one in particular that Brown identified Saturday got my attention. It's something with which we can all identify — sports fans or not.

"He's in the upper echelon of men I've met in my life in terms of being someone who really tries to follow through with what he says," said Brown, Nebraska's director of player development. "He's very detailed about what he says. He writes a lot down. You don't have to keep reminding him of what he said to you. He remembers it and follows through.

"Whatever he told you he was going to do for you, I've watched him over the years continually do it — it may have been with a contract or a salary issue or understanding family needs or emergencies. He'll chase you out of the office and say, 'Go be with your family.'"

Gill's conscientious nature was apparent Tuesday during his final news conference at Liberty. He said he made the decision to retire so he could take care of his wife, Gayle, who was diagnosed with a heart condition in the summer of 2016. His eyes welled with tears as he described the moment he shared the news with his players. He said he hopes to find a new career "that’s less stressful."

He said 90-hour work weeks were common. Make no mistake, 13-hour work days with few days off tend to take a toll on coaches, Brown said.

"I think there's a mentality, unfortunately, in the profession where some people think, 'The more hours you work, the better,'" he said. "But there is a point of diminishing returns. I wholeheartedly believe that if you drive your coaches into the ground, in terms of hours, you will inevitably get very frustrated, anxious, worried and — before you know it — fear-driven people."

Nobody's saying Gill became that way. But he clearly reached a point where a tough decision was necessary.

"I know Turner and I know if there's something that's not right with his family in terms of health, or if there's something that's a little bit off that keeps him from being all that he can be as a man, I always think he would consider moving on," Brown said. "I just didn't know it would be this year. I'm not shocked at the decision based on his circumstances; I was just surprised that it was this year."

-- I interviewed Brown right before he headed to Pinnacle Bank Arena for Nebraska's win against Creighton, which was part of the Husker football team's recruiting weekend. Brown enjoys his role in the recruiting process.

"You realize that these four to five years go by really fast for players," he said. "These young men are launched into the next realm of life faster than a lamb can shake its tail. The relationships you have with them, they're golden moments — key moments."

You want to understand why Brown is valuable to Scott Frost's program? Here you go:

"You have to live for key opportunities to invest in players' lives because before you know it, they're going to be gone," he said. "You have to listen and pay attention. I do a lot of observing. I'm just trying to read each situation." 

In a loud (and angry) world, that sounds refreshing.

-- Glanced at my television Sunday in time to see former Nebraska standouts Randy Gregory and Maliek Collins, now of the Dallas Cowboys, scrambling for a fumble. Collins pounced on it, and Gregory patted him on the helmet. The Huskers can have linemen on defense that are as good as Gregory and Collins. It needs to happen again. Soon.

-- Kansas gets Les Miles. Kansas State reportedly may get Chris Klieman from North Dakota State, although a lot of KSU fans evidently wouldn't be thrilled with that setup. A 67-6 record at NDSU isn't enough? Seriously?

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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