Turner still huge presence for family after CTE-caused death
DEATSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Raymond Turner sometimes finds his wife Myra watching old video of their son playing football, the sport that ultimately led to his death, and often going through the video two or three times.
“I know it’s killing her,” he said. “But only child, what do you do?”
Turner was 46 last March when he passed away nearly six years after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more familiarly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was later determined to be chronic traumatic encephalopathy , CTE, a traumatic brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.
Turner absorbed way too many of those playing fullback with Alabama and then for eight seasons with the NFL’s Patriots and Eagles.
He still has a huge presence in his parents’ lakeside home.
A downstairs room in the home not far from Montgomery is a virtual shrine to Turner. The walls are covered with framed jerseys from the various stages of his career, along with newspaper clippings and photographs. Near the home’s front door hangs a drawing of him in his old No. 34 with the words: “He was given this life because he was strong enough to live it. And he lived it well.”
His old Tahoe still sits on the property, rigged so Turner could drive with his legs and crank the engine using his foot because the disease had so dramatically stricken his once-powerful arms.
After the diagnosis, Turner served as president of the Kevin Turner Foundation, which seeks to show the potential connections between repeated brain trauma and ALS in athletes. He was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL.
Next week, researchers are going to publish the results of the largest-ever CTE study, in which 110 of 111 brains tested show evidence of the disease.
Neuropathologist Ann McKee has called Turner’s level of CTE “extraordinary and unprecedented for an athlete who died in his 40s.”
Turner was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year. His presence is still felt at the Turners’ home
Raymond Turner urged his 14-year-old grandson Cole not to play football this season, but he knows the youngster’s father would have had trouble giving up the sport even if he knew the fatal toll it would take.
“That’s probably the sad part of it, he’d probably do it again,” Raymond Turner said. “Knowing what he knew at the end, he would have been smarter. When he first started getting those stingers and he got concussions, he’d know to get out or it was time to step aside. But then, it was just get back out there after two or three plays.
“He just had so many.”
How many? Kevin Turner once told his father he thought he’d had more than 100 concussions during his career.
But Cole, 17-year-old Natalie and Nolan — a redshirt freshman defensive back at Clemson — got to see the highlights of his life and career at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
“I want them to know their dad, what kind of guy he was,” Raymond Turner said. “They’ve got to know what kind of guy he was. He’d be proud knowing that he was a good guy that was really trying to help.”
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