Alex Turner moved east to Nevada with his family from Mission Viejo in Orange County in 2001, the summer before he entered sixth grade. But while mom took to her job in of the city's established industries as a successful wedding planner, the young son quickly had to adjust.
"I didn't really like it. You go from some of the nicest weather in the country, Orange County, to a hot and dusty desert," he said. "That's not easy for a California kid."
The changes worked out just fine in the end for Turner, who played both defensive end and outside linebacker in high school. Listed at 6-foot-1 and around 240 pounds, he turned down scholarship offers from the likes of Oregon and Utah by choosing Stanford. He starred for four years on varsity football for Catholic powerhouse Bishop Gorman, in addition to playing both basketball and volleyball.
Some entities are so worthy, they deserve only one name in their titles. In eastern Nevada, the name "Gorman" is synonymous with excellence in scholastic sports. The baseball team makes national rankings. The girls' sports are top-notch. Turner helped the boys basketball team win a state championship in basketball this past winter.
Football represents the high expectations to the fullest. Small colleges would envy the weight-training facilities. Second-year head coach Tony Sanchez, who played his high school football in Livermore, Calif., left a stable coaching gig at California High in San Ramon to take over at Gorman.
"The whole atmosphere will grind and wear on you if you don't watch out," Turner said. "I like having the high expectations. I feel like it's helped me now, and it's going to help me where I'm going."
Sanchez raves about his outgoing senior, calling him "the most complete player I've ever coached." For his part, Turner volunteered his time as an assistant this month during Gorman's spring practices (where recruiting reps from seven FBS schools were on hand one day last week). Turner isn't sure if he wants to ever pursue a coaching career, but he maintains an immense love of his alma mater.
"He's an incredible talent," Sanchez said. "We know we're going to miss him around here."
Sanchez's current staff has nine assistant coaches, former Notre Dame and NFL cornerback Todd Lyght among them. Having to no longer to vye with De La Salle for local supremacy, Sanchez now leads Nevada's version of the De La Salle.
"I can really appreciate what (Jim) Harbaugh has done at Stanford," he said. "Hard work and dedication go a long way."
If there's one steadfast member of Turner's support team who will stick by him at every level, it's his mom. Dionnie Martin is one mom whose son isn't ashamed to lose to her in a game of one-on-one. She played basketball alongside Lisa Leslie at Morningside High in Inglewood, playing in four consecutive state championships from 1988 to 1991.
"She got me motivated to play basketball," he said. "The first time I really challenged her to play was the beginning of seventh grade. She kept beating me. By the end of eighth grade, I finally beat her."
Now it's time for another challenge, and another change of scenery.
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