Boise State Recruit Antoine Turner overcomes homelessness
Every day Antoine Turner was trying to survive the real world.
“Wake up, survive. Go to sleep, survive. Wake up, survive. Every day,” he said in an interview with KTVB in Boise, Idaho.
From an early age, on the streets of New Orleans, Turner used his survival instincts to stay alive.
Then Turner eventually caught his break.
Discovering his love for football, the 6’3” 280-pound will join the Boise State Broncos in June, hoping to become their next star defensive end.
But it was a tough road to get to this point.
At age 4, his mother died of cancer, which estranged his relationship with his father.
“I had this big of a hole in my heart,” Turner said, while showing how big of a hole it left by stretching his arms out.
Then in August 2005, bouncing from house to house, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the home he was living in, in the poverty stricken Lower Ninth Ward area of New Orleans.
“We stayed in the apartment complex because we thought it was going to pass,” he said. “Then the water came rolling in and flooded, and we had to evacuate out of the roof.”
Turner then turned to helping local gangs transports substances from point A to point B.
“They (found out) I was playing sports,” Turner said. “I was playing football, and I wasn’t having to go home until late at night. That kept me out of the streets. That kept me out of trouble. They may be thugs and they may be gangsters, but they actually cared.”
Once he started to see his potential, he decided to play college football. However, one thing Turner was unable to do was get good enough grades.
In the hopes of one day reaching Division I football, he signed up to play for Fullerton Junior College in Fullerton, California.
“I brought a suitcase and a dream,” Turner said. “I thought I was going to get away from my problems, but they just had started.”
With no money or home, he found refuge at a bench table in a local park. He was homeless and losing weight. Turner said he went from 290 to 220 pounds.
Hardly fit for Division I football.
But an angel came into his life. His girlfriend, R’Mya, introduced her boyfriend to her family, where they took him, treating him like a son, feeding him, sheltering him and clothing him.
He was adopted by a new family.
“It was more or less like, ‘Let’s take care of him,’ ” Nathaniel Gray, R’Mya’s uncle, said emotionally. “Just proud of him. He’s been through so much. He’s been through so much.”
Unfortunately, Turner, who was living with an uncle in a government-subsidized home, was forced to leave, leaving him homeless again.
It did not phase him, though.
“I spent a lot of time laying and sleeping with those lights on, so every time when those lights come on when I’m on the football field, it reminds me like I’m sleeping back on the bench,” Turner said.
Following the acceptance of a scholarship at Boise State, which three years earlier violated NCAA rules, many boosters were pitching in to help his cause.
This is when the NCAA stepped in and Boise State issued this statement to KTVB in response to NCAA statement and to prevent possible future rules violations regarding the Turner situation:
We need to make it clear to your viewers and Bronco fans that it is NOT permissible within NCAA rules for boosters of Boise State athletics to provide benefits to Mr. Turner. That would include money, loans, gifts, discounts, transportation costs, etc. While Mr. Turner’s need is abundantly clear, it is not permissible for Boise State, the athletics department or supporters of the athletics department to assist Mr. Turner at this time. Once Mr. Turner arrives on campus for the start of the summer school program, he will be well taken care of—receiving full tuition, room and board, books, fees etc. In the meantime, the compliance office is exploring a potential waiver with the NCAA that would allow us to provide assistance prior to the start of summer school.
However, the NCAA issued an update via Twitter, which was met with approval:
Now Turner will immediately receive at Boise State and will receive “full tuition, room and board, books, fees, etc.,” according to the University.