Schuckman: Strong roots in community, football make Killday right choice to guide QU program


Quincy University President Dr. Brian McGee, left, congratulates Jason Killday after he was introduced as the Hawks' new football coach during a press conference Wednesday in the Hall of Fame room on the QU campus, while QU athletic director Josh Rabe looks on. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Roots run deep in the Killday family, where the family farm outside of Winchester, Ill., remains the beacon that draws everyone home.

Josh Rabe wants Quincy University to have the same magnetism.

So for the second time this calendar year, when faced with having to hire a head coach for a high-profile program, Rabe flipped through the contact list in his cell phone and dialed up someone with ties to the area or the school.

And the QU athletic director made the same pitch.

Come home.

Jason Killday couldn’t say no to that, much the same way Keokuk, Iowa, native Courtney Boyd couldn’t say no to becoming the QU women’s basketball coach. Killday couldn’t say no knowing the pieces are in place for the QU football program to have success with the athletic department and the administration willing to work toward improving and upgrading areas where the Hawks are lacking.

Wednesday morning, in a packed Hall of Fame Room on the QU campus, Rabe introduced Killday as the next QU football coach, bringing the coach’s career full circle. Killday’s first collegiate coaching job was at QU when he joined Bill Terlisner’s staff in 2010 as the quarterbacks coach.

He eventually became offensive coordinator and associate head coach before Truman State lured him away in 2015. After eight seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, QU lured him back.

With a lot of help, too.

“The last two weeks have been pretty busy,” said Rabe, who learned December 7 former coach Gary Bass was interviewing for the head coaching position at the University of Virginia-Wise and was given Bass’ resignation December 12. “There have been a lot of calls going back and forth, a lot of communication and a lot of unsolicited communication.

“That’s not a bad thing. It’s part of collegiate athletics. More times than not, the people who would call about a certain candidate would also give a couple other names. (Killday’s) name came up in 90 percent of those conversations.”

That couldn’t be ignored.

Nor could all the ties that bind.

Killday and his wife, Steph, met when both worked at QU. She is a native of Northeast Missouri with family still in Lewis County. His brother, Joe, was an assistant football coach at Pittsfield High School and still calls the Pike County community his home.

Killday’s relationship with the Leonard family — legendary Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin coach Ken Leonard gave Killday his first coaching job and Rochester coach Derek Leonard was a groomsman in Killday’s wedding — is strong, as are his friendships with Jacksonville coach Mark Grounds and others in the central part of the state.

There is a little bit of their influence — the same can be said for former Edwardsville coach Tim Dougherty — in how Killday coaches and runs his program.

There will be signs of the Gregg Nesbitt influence, too. The Truman State head coach knows a thing or two about roots as well, as he is a Hannibal native and a Truman State graduate, and he knows how to run a program. Nesbitt is the second winningest coach in Bulldogs history.

“One of the best things (Nesbitt) does is he aligns his vision with the coaching staff and with the players,” Killday said. “That vision is aligned and everyone is marching in order. You don’t have guys spraying off left and right. You might not agree with it, but you’re in line with it.

“We can debate what we’re doing, but once that debate is settled, we’re back in line with what needs done. Getting everybody on the same page is the challenge. There are a million different ways to move the football. There’s a million different ways to stop the football. There’s a million different ways to recruit. Putting together that vision and getting everyone in line will be key.”

Killday’s vision is clear. So is Rabe’s.

To build a consistent winner, to engage in the community, to make fans flock to QU Stadium on Saturday afternoons, you start by planting roots.

And Killday’s roots are strong.

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