I've tended to do these countdowns with a bit of an historical bent, and, one thing I've seen with nearly every player in the modern age is evidence of head trauma and neurological injury from, associated with, or suspected to arise from football. The players that are alive speak often of the damage and trauma the sport causes. Those that are no longer with us are later found to have suffered from debilitating brain injury -- Kenny Stabler is just the most recent to come to mind, when an autopsy later discovered he had stage three CTE.
Today, we cover another such player: former Alabama fullback, Kevin Turner.
We will not delve into his playing career much: Turner himself said there is so much more to life than the game, and we will respect that belief and instead focus on his later work. We can briefly note that as a player, Kevin Turner was a fan favorite at every level, a beloved friend, and a locker room leader. He was a punishing lead blocker and had exceptional hands, being integral to Homer Smith's West Coast offense. That familiarity with pass blocking, and his threat as a swing pass option made him instantly pro ready. While at Alabama he lowered his head and gave up his body for the incomparable Siran Stacy. In the pros, he was a stalwart of the New England Patriots' offense, and was Donovan McNabb's best friend in Philadelphia while helping Ricky Watters lead the NFL in rushing.
But, at the age of 31, after a horrifying neck injury, Turner stepped away from the game forever.
Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with a death sentence: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease -- a progressive, incurable, 100% fatal, agonizing demyelinating condition that strips the nerves of their protective protein sheath. Every moment is pain; every muscle is affected; every bodily function disrupted.
It is, with good reason, one of the most feared diseases known to us.
Kevin then established the Kevin Turner Foundation - Sports Legacy Institute to help search for a cure and prevention of this most terrifying specter. He would spend the rest of his life fighting the disease, fighting the clock, and being a prisoner to his own body.
On March 24, 2016, Kevin Turner laid down a burden of agony that frankly most of us could never carry, and he was finally at peace.
While we can do nothing for Kevin, another Alabama standout, Kerry Goode is also struggling with an ALS diagnosis. And, there is time to act -- maybe not in time for Kerry, but certainly to try and help the inevitable parade of Kevins and Kerrys we will continue to see more of as the science advances.
You can donate to the Goode Foundation here (and follow Kerry on Twitter at @KerryGoode.) The KTF-SLI is available here. Please consider throwing a few dollars their way.
24 days 'til kickoff.