Kevin Turner, a former Alabama Crimson Tide and NFL fullback who fought the league in a concussion-related lawsuit, has succumbed to ALS. Turner was 46-years-old.
Kevin Turner began his football career at Prattville High School in Prattville, Alabama, and after graduation, he enrolled at the University of Alabama, where he played for the Crimson Tide. In 1992, Turner was selected by the New England Patriots as a third round draft pick, where he played as a fullback for three seasons, before moving to the Philadelphia Eagles for another five seasons. Turner’s professional football career ended in 1999, when he sustained two neck injuries that caused him to leave the game.
According to CBS Sports, it was around 2006 that Turner began to realize that something was wrong with him physically. He couldn’t understand why he needed to be medicated in order to feel normal, the media outlet says. Kevin Turner was diagnosed with ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — in 2010 after a doctor suggested that perhaps the head trauma he had received from years of playing football had changed the chemical makeup of his brain.
— Mark McMillian (@MarkMcMillian29) March 24, 2016
After his diagnosis, Turner researched the connection between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a degenerative brain disease — ALS, and football-related head trauma. He strongly believed that there was a link between the many concussions he had received over the years as a fullback and his diagnosis with ALS. Following his diagnosis, Turner started the Kevin Turner Foundation to help bring awareness to the connection between ALS and head injuries.
“Football had something to do with it. I don’t know to what extent, and I may not ever know. But there are too many people I know that have ALS and played football in similar positions. They seem to be linebackers, fullbacks, strong safeties. Those are big collision guys.”
Kevin Turner would go on to become one of the biggest advocates for safer gameplay for football players and was the lead plaintiff in a concussion-related lawsuit filed against the NFL by retired players. All Turner wanted, reports ESPN, was to ensure that current and future players of the game he loved would have a safer game to play. Christopher Seeger, an attorney for the lawsuit against the NFL, said that Kevin fought the league solely on behalf of his NFL brothers so that those retired players would get the compensation they deserved after receiving countless injuries playing a game that no one thought could be so dangerous at the time.
“Kevin selflessly fought for compensation and benefits for retired players who suffered from concussion-related illnesses by pushing to finalize the settlement. He was always concerned about the interests of the broader retired NFL player community — never himself — and worked tirelessly on their behalf so they could receive the care and support they needed.”
In 2013, the NFL reached a settlement with the retired players for a sum of $765 million, but as the case continues to go through appeals, not a cent has been paid out.
— EROCK (@TheMightyEROCK) March 24, 2016
The struggles Kevin Turner faced after being diagnosed with ALS were the subject of a 2012 documentary entitled American Man, as well as a music video for the song “Journey On” by Ty Herndon. In 2011, Turner and Herndon presented a check to the ALS Therapy Alliance for $4.3 million.
Kevin Turner is survived by his former wife and three children, Nolan, Nathalie, and Cole. Eighteen-year-old son Nolan will be following in his father’s footsteps and has committed to playing football at Clemson for Turner’s former Alabama teammate, Dabo Swinney.
Although Kevin Turner sadly succumbed to ALS at just 46-years-old, his legacy — and advocacy for the disease — will live on. Prior to his death, he agreed to donate his brain and spine for research into the link between concussions and ALS.
[Photo by Doug Pensinger/Allsport/Getty Images]