At 6’3’’ and 280 pounds, previously-homeless Boise State defensive tackle Antoine Turner will be a substantial addition to a historically hard-nosed Bronco defense in 2014. If you watch any of his game tape from Fullerton College you’ll be able to see that he has all the physical attributes to be a staunch run stopper and dogged pass rusher. He’s got quick feet and a knack for knifing through offensive lines and disrupting backfields of opposing offenses. You can see he’s got a motor that will not quit – you’ll see him making plays downfield, never giving up when a play seems dead, and generally wrecking absolute havoc in his wake. He’s scrappy and possesses a never-give-up attitude, even when his back is pressed up against a wall.
But not long ago, Turner found himself at the precipice of losing those fumes that kept him going – his dream to play college football and then in the NFL. At one point, he was flunking out of college. He lost his job at the local Laundromat. His family was broken and he lost his mother to cancer 17 years prior. Then, he was kicked off the Fullerton College football team. He spent his nights sleeping on a steel picnic table at a park in Anaheim, CA where he lost 70 pounds because of malnutrition and contemplated ending his own life right then and there. But it only took a small spark to rekindle his inner flame.
He met a fellow Fullerton student named R’Mya, who allowed for Turner to house with her and her family for the time being. That student is now Turner’s girlfriend and plans to attend college with him at Boise State this fall. Turner was also, somewhat surprisingly, given a rare second shot to play for Fullerton by head coach Tim Byrnes.
This time, he wouldn’t let the opportunity slip away.
Turner tore up the line of scrimmage last season at Fullerton with 34 tackles, 6 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and an interception. He has used his second chance as a way to revitalize his entire life with a hard reset. Now he’s a promising young defensive tackle for one of the top college teams in the Northwest, complete with a full-ride athletic scholarship.
While he has yet to find a home and continues to sleep in motels, hotels, and any facility that puts a roof over his head, Turner knows the odds are increasingly pointing in his favor.
“I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor,” is how Turner sees it, “I want to inspire people. Perseverance is a big word for me. You control whatever you want to do in life.”
Turner still has a lot to prove, much more to himself than to anyone else. “Even if I get the food and I get the place to sleep I still have this planet on my shoulder that I have to get off. It’s not a chip, it’s a planet.” This is a man that realizes only he has the power to control his future and understands it can all be undone in an instant. He was only 12 years old when he saw this first-hand, as Hurricane Katrina ripped through his family’s home in New Orleans.
Antoine Turner is a rare type of player. He acknowledges the repercussions of failure, accepts that life is often unfair, and once came dangerously close to falling into the abyss of irrelevance. He has since turned his life completely around and will use his unique resolve and determination for the orange and blue this fall.
That’s not a good sign for opposing offensive lineman. Turner and the Broncos open the season in the Georgia Dome against Ole Miss on August 28th (on ESPN at 8 p.m. EST).