24 Days Away from Bama Kickoff: Kevin Turner
Each day counting down to Alabama's Week 1 matchup with Utah State, I will highlight a former player whose jersey number coincides with the amount of days until the game. The Crimson Tide kicks off in only 24 days, so let's look back at the career of former Bama fullback, Kevin Turner.
Kevin Turner suited up as the Tide's premier lead blocker from 1988-91, paving the way for the likes of Bobby Humphrey and Siran Stacy. He is widely remembered by fans for not only his extreme toughness on the field, but his courage off of it.
Turner was born in Prattville, AL and was a star running back at Prattville High School before beginning his career as a member of the Crimson Tide. As a true freshman in 1988, Turner saw time in 10 of Alabama's 12 games and finished with 28 rushes for 120 yards, also adding nearly 100 yards as a receiver. While he was certainly impactful as a runner, the bulldozing freshman truly made himself felt as a blocker.
In Turner's sophomore season, he saw time in 11 contests and continued to earn a larger and larger role within the offense. He was the catalyst to the Crimson Tide rushing attack, not only blowing open running lanes, but averaging four yards per carry himself.
As a junior, Turner continued to punish opposing defenses as both an extremely effective blocker and legitimate threat in the run and pass game. He averaged over four yards per carry and hauled in 26 passes, all while crushing defenders who dared meet him at the line of scrimmage.
The Prattville native's final season in Tuscaloosa was likely his most impactful as the senior served as a team captain and helped lead the Tide to an 11-1 record and second place finish in the SEC.
He was drafted in the third round of the 1992 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots and spent three seasons with the team before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
As an Eagle, Turner compiled an impressive 138 receptions for over 1,100 yards as well as nearly 300 yards on the ground. He served as the lead blocker for 1996's leading rusher, Rickey Watters, just a year after suffering a severe knee injury and won the Ed Block Courage Award.
For the next three seasons, Turner served as a swiss-army knife type player for Philadelphia, making plays in every aspect of the offense. His career unfortunately came to an end in 1999 when the former Bama bruiser suffered back-to-back neck injuries, but he retired with an impressive stat line.
From 1991-1999, Turner hauled in 236 passes for over 2,000 yards and added nearly 400 yards on the ground. Not to mention, the countless linebackers and safeties he decimated as a lead blocker.
Years after the conclusion of his career, Turner faced a new battle when he was diagnosed with ALS in 2010. Following his diagnosis, the Bama legend became an active figure in both researching and raising awareness for the link between the ALS and the degenerative brain disease CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).
The Kevin Turner Foundation was founded in 2010 shortly after the diagnosis as a means to raise funds for further research.
In 2011, Turner told ESPN, "Football had something to do with it," he continued, "I don't know to what extent, and I may not ever know. But there are too many people I know that have ALS and played football in similar positions. They seem to be linebackers, fullbacks, strong safeties. Those are big collision guys."
He was the subject of a 2012 HBO documentary titled, "American Man," which focused on Turner's struggles with ALS as well as discussing the ties between football and the deadly disease.
He passed away in March of 2016 after a six-year battle, but his legacy lives on even today. Shortly after news of his death broke, former Alabama athletic director Bill Battle penned a message to the Crimson Tide community calling Turner a, "True Warrior," and thanking him for his inspiration.
Turner's brain was donated to the Boston University School of Medicine in 2016 and he was found to have been suffering from a severe case of CTE that likely was the trigger for his ALS.
While the fight to make football safer for athletes continues on today, Turner had a major impact on the attitude of both the NFL and general public on the topic of concussions. As of 2021, the league is down 32% in concussions from six seasons ago, highly in part to recent rule changes and updates to equipment guidelines.