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Jon Nelson

KT's New Challenge

By Jon NelsonPosted May 9, 2013 11:34am (EDT)
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If you mention the name Kevin Turner to the folks in Tuscaloosa, they have this picture in their mind of a guy who would run over you to get where he needed to go...

The soft hands could catch passes out of the backfield and then the size and frame would leave tire tread on you as he plowed his way forward. Turner spent nine years in the NFL as a fullback and a special teamer and now his battles are far different...

It's a battle to eat...
It's a battle to hold something in his hand- even for a second...
And shaking hands to greet a stranger for the first time is out of the question...

Turner has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis... Lou Gehrig's Disease...

This is the second time that I have been near someone who is fighting this animal that, I'm told in analogy, is like being a candle and having wicks at both ends that are lighted. And as the candle burns, that's the effect the disease has on the body. It goes from the outside in when it attacks...

The first time, you all know, was when those of us at GPB were introduced to former Greenville Head Coach Jeremy Williams. I can say that, after being with the Williams family, they are some of the bravest people I know. It's easy to make a correlation between Jeremy's hard-hitting style at Memphis as a punishing defensive back and how he is now. But it hasn't been divulged that his on-field stats are the cause of his health issues.

And we may never know...

But with Kevin Turner you see the same kind of strength and inner peace that I have seen in the Williams family. He and Jeremy see themselves as vessels to a greater message- and the message may differ from person to person.

I think that's the point...

Kevin is now one of the faces of the NFL concussion lawsuit- feeling deeply that those who run the sport he played need to take a deeper responsibility for the actions of those who paved the way to form today's corporate monolith.

He thinks that shoulder pads shouldn't be used as much as they are...
He thinks that kids should be held out of playing the sport until their teen years because the body is being formed many times over until then. If a young kid wants to play football, and they express that interest to a parent... and Kevin means REALLY, REALLY, expresses that interest to a parent- wait a year... and then let the kid get the taste to play first-hand.

As a player, a coach of young kids learning to play, and as a parent... Turner has a lot to say... He's even let Jon Frankel follow him around to chronicle his battle with the disease... and the battle his family and close friends are part in as well...

Here's the trailer for "American Man..."

It's brave... it's eye-opening... and, something Turner said initially would be a fun thing to do...
You don't hear a lot of people say that... that opening up your life to one of its biggest challenges and baring your day-to-day struggles would be a fun thing to do. But Turner approaches this whole thing with a sense of humor. He knows that his life is different and will only get more so...

He joked with me that he can't text and drive as much as he used to...
But, I know, that the mission and the message will shine a light into some corners that need to be exposed.

Here's our short version of the conversation we had...

The long version is here...

And to find out more about the Kevin Turner Foundation, go to kevinturnerfoundation.org

For those of you who want to catch "American Man" it will be shown tonight at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta- action starts at 7 with the documentary kicking off at 8...

Be there... you might even see someone you know...

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