LIBERTY CAREER Since taking over Liberty's football program, head football coach Turner Gill has elevated Liberty's winning tradition to the next level. The coaching veteran of nearly three decades has the Flames positioned for success as they transition to the highest level of collegiate football.
Liberty has posted a winning record in each of Gill's six seasons at the helm of the program, extending the Flames' streak to 12 seasons in a row with a winning mark. Liberty is one of five FCS teams in the country to have posted a winning record for 11 or more consecutive seasons.
Liberty kicked off its two-year FBS transition process in grand style when Gill guided the Flames to a 48-45 win at Baylor on Sept. 2, 2017. The stunning victory was ranked as the seventh biggest upset in college football over the last 25 years in an article on ESPN.com (Sept. 6, 2017).
The 2017 season-opening win over the Bears was Liberty's third over an FBS team during Gill's time at Liberty and the program's first-ever over a Power 5 opponent. Gill also guided the Flames to FBS wins over Appalachian State in 2014 and Georgia State in 2015, accounting for three of the program's five total wins over FBS teams.
Prior to Liberty's current transition to the FBS level, Gill guided the Flames to four Big South titles during his first six seasons on Liberty Mountain (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016). The successful run was spotlighted when he led Liberty into uncharted waters in 2014, leading the program to its first-ever trip to the NCAA FCS Playoffs.
Gill was rewarded for his coaching prowess in 2014 when he was named the Bobby Ross Coach of the Year Award winner. The honor is given annually to the top Division I coach in the Commonwealth of Virginia (both FBS and FCS coaches).
He was also selected the top Division I coach in Virginia by the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID), the second for any head football coach in program history.
In his last 11 seasons as head coach at three different programs, Gill has led his teams to first-place conference finishes six times (2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016).
Gill was hired as Liberty's eighth head football coach Dec. 14, 2011. The former Nebraska-standout quarterback and head coach at Buffalo and Kansas has taken Liberty to new heights despite facing some of the most daunting schedules in Liberty's program history.
In 2014, Liberty had the No. 2 ranked schedule in the country (ranked by the NCAA), which included a top-25 ranked FBS team and five top-25 ranked FCS programs.
During the 2015 campaign, Liberty squared off against three top-10 ranked FCS teams and faced two FBS opponents. Against the daunting slate, Liberty posted wins over No. 4 Coastal Carolina, No. 7 Montana, and Sun Belt foe Georgia State.
During Gill's first three years at Liberty (2012-14), the Flames opened each year with a competitive game against a top-notch FBS opponent. In Gill's Liberty head coaching debut, Wake Forest needed a late third quarter touchdown and another score early in the fourth to post a 20-17 comeback victory in Winston-Salem, N.C.
In 2013, Kent State was able to break a 10-10 tie with less than five minutes left in the fourth to escape with a seven-point victory over the Flames.
The Flames opened 2014 against No. 23 North Carolina, the program's first-ever matchup with a nationally ranked FBS team. The upstart Flames led the game midway through third quarter before the Tar Heels pulled away for the victory.
The Flames have also squared off against 19 nationally ranked FCS programs since Gill took over the program. Under his leadership, Liberty has posted wins over No. 1 Coastal Carolina, No. 4 Coastal Carolina, No. 6 Stony Brook, No. 7 Montana, No. 15 James Madison, No. 15 Charleston Southern, and No. 25 Bryant.
Three of Liberty's seven ranked wins during Gill's tenure came during the unforgettable 2014 campaign, a season 26 years in the making for Flames Nation (Liberty began NCAA Division I play in 1988).
Liberty's first of three top-25 wins in 2014 came against a previously unbeaten and No. 25-ranked Bryant team midway through September.
The week prior to opening up Big South play in October, Liberty upended Sun Belt Conference member Appalachian State. The offensive shootout, which Liberty won 55-48 in overtime, gave the program its third victory over an FBS program.
The rugged schedule prepared the Flames for their toughest test yet when they traveled to Conway, S.C., to face No. 1 Coastal Carolina for their regular season finale. With a third-straight Big South title and the program's first-ever postseason berth on the line, Gill guided the Flames to a thrilling one-point victory.
Defensive end Chima Uzowihe blocked a 24-yard field goal attempt as time expired, giving Liberty a 15-14 win over its archrival. The stunning one-point win gave Liberty the Big South title and the league's automatic bid into the NCAA FCS Playoffs.
The Flames made the most of their postseason appearance, one that thrilled the thousands of Flames fans who traveled to both Harrisonburg, Va., and Villanova, Pa.
Liberty crafted a 17-play drive that used over 11 minutes on the game clock to post a 26-21 win over No. 15 James Madison during the first round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs. The following week, Liberty pushed No. 5 Villanova and Walter Payton Award-winning Wildcats quarterback John Robertson for 60 minutes before falling, 29-22, on the game's final drive.
Liberty finished the 2014 season ranked No. 17 in the country in both the Sports Network and FCS Coaches polls, the Flames' best year-end ranking since 2008. The Flames finished the campaign with a 9-5 overall record, tying for the second-most wins in a season in program history.
The Flames used the momentum of a postseason playoff run in 2014 to continue its success against the nation's best teams in 2015. Liberty upended No. 7 Montana in front of a Williams Stadium record crowd of 22,551 fans while closing the year with a thrilling 24-21 victory over No. 4 Coastal Carolina. That final game aired on ESPNEWS, Liberty's first-ever nationally televised game.
During the Flames' final non-conference contest of 2015, Liberty knocked off Georgia State, 41-33, at the Georgia Dome. The eight-point victory was Liberty's fourth over an FBS team and the second under Gill's leadership.
Liberty posted wins over top-25 ranked teams during the first four years under Gill's leadership — Liberty's first coach to accomplish that feat in the program's 43-year history.
Gill has helped develop some of the most gifted players in the Big South Conference during his six seasons at Liberty, with 80 players earning Big South all-conference honors and 36 selected to the VaSID all-state squads.
Gill's player-development skills were put on full display during his first season at Liberty while coaching quarterback Josh Woodrum. Gill, with his vast personal knowledge as a highly decorated college quarterback, was able to help shape and mold Woodrum's abilities.
Woodrum was named the top rookie player in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2012 (both FCS and FBS players) and finished No. 13 in the final voting for the Jerry Rice Award (given annually to the top freshman FCS player in the country).
The quarterback set a freshman program record in 2012 with 1,963 total offensive yards and ranked second in program history with 1,966 passing yards. In 2013, Woodrum continued to shine as his 2,591 passing yards ranked as the second-highest passing total by a sophomore quarterback in program history.
Woodrum continued to excel during his four-year career under Gill's leadership, allowing the quarterback to finish as the program's all-time passing leader with 10,266 yards.
However, Woodrum wasn't Liberty's only football standout during this time. All-America safety Jacob Hagen led the nation in interceptions during the 2014 season. He was honored as the VaSID Co-Defensive Player of the Year and became the program's first-ever finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award (top FCS defensive player in the country).
Chima Uzowihe, a fellow senior with Woodrum, capped off his career at Liberty by being named the Big South Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year award, both a first in program history.
Under Gill's guidance, quarterback Stephen Calvert rewrote Liberty's passing record book in 2017. The quarterback's record-breaking season started when he threw for a school record 447 yards in Liberty's win over Power 5 opponent Baylor. By season's end, Calvert established new season program records for passing yards (3,363) and touchdowns (29), while tying the school's completions record (257).
Gill has proven he has a keen eye for young talented players, helping them develop during their college years and preparing them to play at the professional level.
Walt Aikens became the seventh player in Liberty's program history to be selected in the NFL Draft when the Miami Dolphins took the former star cornerback in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft (No. 125 overall pick).
Additionally, several other Flames received NFL training camp workout invitations shortly after the 2014 and 2015 NFL Drafts: Francis Bah (DL) – Chicago Bears; Kevin Fogg (CB) – Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins; Cory Freeman (DL) – Cleveland Browns; Aldreakis Allen (RB) – Indianapolis Colts; Jacob Hagen (DB) – St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers; and Dominique Davis (DL) – Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gill played an instrumental role in helping Woodrum and Flames All-America kicker John Lunsford receive invitations to the 2016 NFL Combine to showcase their talents for coaches and general managers at the next level.
Woodrum and Lunsford were the second and third players in program history to receive an NFL Combine invite and were two of only 22 FCS players at the showcase event.
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft, Lunsford (San Francisco 49ers), Darrin Peterson (Chicago Bears), and Woodrum (N.Y. Giants) each signed free agent contracts with NFL franchises.
Gill was essential in the recruitment of one of the more talked about players in the 2014 NFL Draft. Khalil Mack, who was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the first round as the No. 4 overall pick, signed with Buffalo when Gill was head coach.
Under Gill, Liberty's offensive and defensive units have flourished. Liberty set a program record in 2013 with 36 rushing touchdowns, and the Flames ranked No. 16 in the country in scoring offense (37.3 points per game).
Liberty ranked No. 5 in the country in 2013 in scoring defense, holding opponents to 17.6 points per game while ranking No. 3 in turnover margin (1.3).
Liberty also ranked among the national leaders in total defense during his first two seasons on Liberty Mountain. The Flames ranked No. 15 in the country in 2012 (314.73 yards allowed per game) and No. 9 in 2013 (313.90).
CAREER BEFORE LIBERTY
Gill came to Liberty after serving two years as head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks. During his time in Lawrence, Kan., Gill coached 10 players who earned All-Big 12 honors, including 2011 All-Big 12 second-team all-conference offensive lineman Jeremiah Hatch and nine players who garnered All-Big 12 honorable-mention accolades.
Gill's two-year coaching stint at Kansas was highlighted by a victory over No. 15 Georgia Tech, 28-25, his first Jayhawks win in 2010, and a 52-45 victory over Colorado, where he rallied Kansas for a fourth-quarter comeback after being down 45-17.
Gill received his first head coaching position in 2006 when he took over a struggling Buffalo Bulls program. After posting a 2-10 record during his inaugural season, Gill guided the Bulls to a 5-7 record in 2007, the program's best mark in more than a decade.
Gill was honored for his turnaround efforts in 2007 when he was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, following the Bulls' 5-3 record in conference play. Buffalo finished the season 4-2 in the MAC East Division, earning the Bulls a share of the conference regular season title in just his second year at the helm of the program.
Gill continued the upward trend in 2008, leading Buffalo to an 8-6 overall record and the MAC championship following a 42-24 victory over Ball State in the conference title game. Ball State entered the contest with a perfect 12-0 record and was ranked No. 12 in the country.
The victory earned the Bulls the program's first-ever postseason bowl game appearance, where Buffalo lost to Connecticut in the International Bowl.
The 2008 season saw Gill earn MAC Coach of the Year honors by The Sporting News, and he was a finalist for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year award. With Gill at the helm of the Bulls' high-powered offense, Buffalo set a program record by scoring 424 points in 2008, which ranked No. 34 nationally in scoring offense.
Gill's longest coaching tenure was at his alma mater, Nebraska, where he served as an assistant coach from 1992 to 2004. He served as the Huskers' quarterbacks coach from 1992 to 2003 and wide receivers coach during his final year with the program.
During his decade-plus coaching stint in Lincoln, Neb., Gill was part of a coaching staff that guided Nebraska to 13 straight bowl appearances and three national championships (1994, 1995, and 1997).
Gill instructed two All-America quarterbacks at Nebraska, Tommy Frazier (1995) and Eric Crouch (2001). Crouch became the third player in the storied history of the Husker program to win the Heisman Trophy, doing so in 2001.
Gill was honored in 2002 as a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
Prior to his full-time coaching days at Nebraska, Gill also served as a graduate assistant at North Texas (1989), Nebraska (1990), and Southern Methodist (1991). Gill also served one year as the Green Bay Packers' Director of Player Development in 2005, before leaving the professional ranks to return to the collegiate level to take over the Buffalo program in 2006.
During his playing career at Nebraska (1980-83), Gill guided the Huskers to a 28-2 record and an unblemished 20-0 record in conference play. He led Nebraska to three straight Orange Bowl appearances, spotlighted by a win over LSU Jan. 1, 1983.
Gill was a three-time Big Eight all-conference selection, and he earned second-team All-America honors and was a Heisman Trophy award finalist, where he finished fourth in the voting in 1983.
He was honored as the quarterback selection to the Big Eight Conference All-Decade Team (1980-89) and has been inducted into both the Nebraska Football and Orange Bowl Halls of Fame.
Gill was a gifted athlete who also played collegiate baseball for one season at Nebraska and earned All-Big Eight honors at shortstop. Out of high school, Gill was a second round draft pick in the 1980 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox as a shortstop.
Following his collegiate career, Gill played two seasons in the Canadian Football League with Montreal (1984-85) and three years as a baseball player in the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers minor league systems (1986-88).
Gill is an active member of the collegiate football community at the national level. He recently completed his second term as an American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees member (2009-11 and 2013-16).
Gill completed his bachelor's degree in behavior analysis at North Texas in 1990. The Fort Worth, Texas, native and his wife, Gayle, have two daughters — Jordan and Margaux.
Gill at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2012-present – Liberty (Head Coach) 2010-11 – Kansas (Head Coach) 2006-09 – Buffalo (Head Coach) 2005 – Green Bay Packers (Director of Player Development/Off. Asst.) 1992-04 – Nebraska (Asst. HC, QB, WR) 1991 – SMU (WR) 1990 – Nebraska (GA) 1989 – North Texas (GA) Education: B.A., Behavior Analysis (North Texas, '90) Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas Wife: Gayle Children: Jordan and Margaux
Playing Career Experiences 1980-83 Nebraska (QB) 1984-85 Montreal (CFL) (QB) 1986-88 Minor League Baseball (With Detroit and Cleveland)
Playing Career Honors Three-Time All-Big Eight honoree (1981, 1982, 1983) Nebraska Co-Captain (1983) Novak Trophy Winner (1983) Heisman Trophy finalist (1983) Nebraska Football Hall of Fame inductee (1989) Orange Bowl Hall of Fame inductee (2006)
Coaching Career Honors Buffalo MAC Coach of the Year (2007 and 2008)
Liberty VaSID Coach of the Year (2014) Bobby Ross Coach of the Year (2014)