Harrisonburg's Landon Turner was a rarity as a freshman – a player who had an impact on the field and drew some interest heading into his sophomore season. However, the budding Virginia star saw that year go down the drain in the very first quarter of his team's opening game.
"It was on our second drive, and it was just an accident," said Turner, a 6-5, 290-pound offensive tackle. "We were running the ball toward my side. I was going to the second level and trying to adjust and reset my hips, for a block, but when I stopped the pile rolled up on me. There were like three or four guys that rolled up on me."
The result was a broken lower fibula, right above the ball joint of the ankle. That unlucky break kept Turner out for the entire season, but it also changed his outlook on the game. Although he was already drawing some recruiting interest, at 335 pounds he wasn't in the best of physical shape, and his attitude wasn't the best.
"It was humbling," Turner said of suddenly becoming an onlooker. "It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was 335 pounds before the season started, and I didn't see that as a problem. I was taking things for granted some. I don't want to say the injury was a good thing, but it was a wake-up call for me. I dieted and worked and lost weight and got into shape. It wasn't any sort of crazy workout, I just ate salads with some meat tossed in, and kept up the protein. I ran a lot, and I ended up going out for wrestling."
A hint of Turner's athletic ability lies in the fact that despite never having wrestled before, and with just a couple weeks of practice, the rising junior recorded 12 wins and was just one victory away from making the state tournament. All of this came about after he was cleared for contact, on Jan. 1 of this year.
Turner's reshaped physique and his success on the mats has him eagerly anticipating football this fall.
"I'm much more comfortable at this weight, and I think I will stay somewhere in this range," he noted. "I could add some more weight and grow, but it I do it will be muscle."
Turner plays both offensive and defensive tackle at Harrisonburg, but it is on the offensive side where he believes that most of his recruiting interest will come.
"My strength is in run blocking. I keep my keep my feet moving," he explained. "Our team runs the ball a lot, and I like being physical. Sometimes that gets me in trouble with my coach, like when we do some zone blocking and I will keep driving the guy I am on instead of peeling off to get the second guy. But I'm working on that."
No coach wants an offensive lineman that isn't aggressive, so channeling that energy shouldn't be a problem for any college coach. Throw in Turner's thirst to improve, and he appears to be the total package.
"I know I need to work on my pass blocking – that's one of my goals for this year," the well-spoken lineman said. "I want to work on my kick step and my footwork. I do think I have the tools to get better there, and I listen to my coaches and do what they say."
Turner has also recovered from the break, and has been touring camps this summer. After a stop at West Virginia's camp last year, he attended sessions at Florida, Georgia, and James Madison this year, and will also be visiting Maryland. With no offers yet, he hasn't narrowed his list, noting that he is looking at approximately 25 schools. However, he does have some favorites in mind.
"West Virginia is definitely in my top five, along with Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia," he revealed. " None of the schools I have talked with are worried about the injury, and I think a lot of them are just waiting to see some film from this year before they offer."
WVU has a strong tie with Turner, as his father, West, was a three-year letterman for the Mountaineers. His best year came in 1984, when he tallied 55 tackles for West Virginia's Bluebonnet Bowl winner. He's most remembered, however, for the 1983 hit on Boston College's Troy Stradford which knocked the Eagle star out of the game on the opening kickoff. That massive hit set the tone for WVU's win over BC, and put West in the Mountaineer annals forever.
Despite that, however, Landon said that his father isn't pushing him in his decision.
"We talk about him playing at West Virginia all the time, but he doesn't want me to base my decision off his past or what he wants to do. I have been there for some games, but I haven't taken an unofficial visit yet. We will definitely make it to WVU for a game this year, and I will take a visit too at some point.
"I do hear about the hit when we go up for games from his old teammates," he added with a laugh. "And the coaches tell some stories about him too. That BC hit is definitely a highlight."