Turner Has Come A Long Way Since Katrina

Boise State defensive tackle Antoine Turner's story is not a common one. Turner has encountered immeasurable hardship on the journey that has taken him from Hurricane Katrina to Boise State.

The average college football player has been through many trials and tribulations, overcoming tough obstacles along the way.  Few have experienced what Boise State defensive tackle Antoine Turner has.  His mother died of cancer when Antoine was four.  Turner has become increasingly estranged from his father afterwards.

Turner and his family were on the third floor of an apartment complex in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina hit on August 23, nearly 10 years ago.  Water had risen to the second floor of the complex, when a hole had to be punched in the roof to be able to be rescued by helicopter. 

The tragedy occurred when Antoine was 12.  Now, he is in Boise, Idaho, competing for a starting job at Boise State as part of a talented defensive line.  But he didn't get from New Orleans to Boise in an ordinary way either. 

Luckily, the family was able to find another home when the waters brought in to the city by Katrina subsided, and a little over four months after the hurricane, the family turned on their television to watch the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, a contest between Boise State and heavily favored Oklahoma.  The Broncos pulled off the upset in miraculous fashion, including running a hook-and-lateral play on 4th-and-16 in the game's final seconds to tie the score, and a Statue of Liberty play to win it in overtime. 

 From that moment on, Turner was hooked on the blue and orange, and wanted desperately to play for Boise State.  Turner saw a way out of the drugs and violence that was all too common in his neighborhood.  And that way was through football.

After borrowing money from his grandfather, Turner traveled to California to enroll in Fullerton Junior College, the first such school that came up on a Google search, which Turner believed to be a sign from God.  Within six months, however, Turner lost his living arrangement at one of the team houses, and poor performance in school took away what little merit-based financial aid he had. 

With his grandparents unable to send more money,Turner had to sleep in the passenger seat of girlfriend R’Mya DeMarcco’s 2002 Kia Optima.  Six months after the Broncos' Fiesta Bowl win inspired him to play for the team, Antoine was sleeping on a bench in Anaheim's La Palma Park.  At night, he would study for his classes under the floodlights of the park.  Turner told no one of his situation.

But when DeMarcco found out, she asked her aunts and uncles to take Antoine in.  Working in multi-month shifts, the relatives provided housing for Turner during the 2013 season.  He began dominating games at Fullerton, and led the team with six sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss that year.

After the season ended, then-defensive line coach Greg Hoyd called Division I coaches to vouch for Turner.  When new Boise State d-line coach Steve Caldwell came for an official home visit, Fullerton officials informed Caldwell that Turner needed to complete nine classes during his final semester to be eligible to attend Boise State.

Buoyed by a great support system that included his relatives, Turner finished his schoolwork, and was offered a scholarship to Boise State shortly afterwards.

And now, here he is.  Turner admits he didn't feel ready last season, when his instincts made it easy to get out of position in the Bronco defense.  Antoine spent the entire offseason working on improving.  "I was working with Pit [Boise State strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pittman] and the strength staff, and I got stronger; I got faster," Turner said.  "I'm moving better than I've ever moved."

Despite all he has overcome to get to this point, or perhaps because of it, Antoine knows the challenge he faces trying to win a starting spot.  "Everybody on that d-line can run, everybody on that d-line is physical, and everybody on that d-line has amazing athletic ability," he said

That Turner has gotten to this moment is a testament of his toughness and resolve--the ability to overcome insurmountable odds, no matter what the circumstances. 

Antoine and Boise State seem to be a great fit.

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