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Flames Feature: Fighting Till The Bell Rings

November 3, 2006
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Tyler Turner a four-time junior national championship boxer.

Tyler Turner a four-time junior national championship boxer.

Football has been analogized with war for as long as the game has been played, 11 men in a trench pulling the line for one common goal, to win a battle. For Liberty senior defensive end Tyler Turner there is another type of clash he has used to prepare him for the "football trenches". 

Turner, a native of Northfield, Minn., was a four-time junior national championship boxer as a teenager and has brought that tenacity from the ring to the football field for the Liberty Flames during his two-year career. However, Turner did not want to attend Liberty right away out of junior college. 

After spending two seasons at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M., coming to Liberty was one of the last things Turner wanted to do. "I was coming out of a military school and was weary about going to another institution with strict rules," said Turner. "My parents thought that Liberty was the perfect place for me and I respect them a lot and so I turned down other offers to come here." 

Other schools such as Rhode Island who offered Turner scholarships have missed out on a player who has yet to miss a game in his Flames' football career. In his first year on the Mountain, Turner recorded 45 tackles and 3.5 sacks while starting all 11 games.
"Tyler has very quick hands and brings an intense competitive nature from boxing to his football game," said head coach Danny Rocco. "He plays hard at full speed and has a tremendous motor that keeps him going." 

Turner, who first desired not to attend Liberty, is now very happy he did. "I have a walk with Christ now where I didn't have one before," said Turner. "Not only have I become a better football player at Liberty, but I am a better person and I am so glad I decided to come here." 

Boxing is a big part of Turner's life and has brought him to where he is today in his football career. Turner began boxing at the age of 11 after seeing his older brother, an upper Midwest champion with over 60 fights under his belt, box. "I saw him box and I wanted to be like him," said Turner. 

Turner boxed and played football throughout high school, but it was a snowboarding accident during his junior year of high school that was a defining moment for the young man. "I went snowboarding, hit a pole and tore my ACL," said Turner. "I quit football right there and just wanted to be done with it." 

After his knee healed, Turner continued boxing and lost pretty soundly in his first fight back. "I got beat so badly that I realized I was not ready to box on that level yet and it really pushed me back to football," said Turner. "If I did not go back to play football my senior year, I never would have received a scholarship to play college football." 

Turner did return to play football and transferred high schools from Northfield High School to Holy Angels High School while he was at it. The move benefited Turner, giving him the opportunity to earn a scholarship at New Mexico Military Institute. 

While there, Turner faced current teammate Jason Horn when Horn played for Glendale Community College in Arizona. The two enjoyed a little rivalry in which Horn's Glendale squad was victorious in both contests. Currently with an injury to Horn, Turner has stepped up to fill the void he has left. 

"We moved Tyler from linebacker to defensive end and the move has really benefited the team with Jason Horn going down with injury," said Rocco. "Tyler has great play making ability which has helped fill the hole left by Horn's injury." 

As a sophomore at New Mexico Military Institute, Turner earned Junior College Player of the Week honors when he recorded 20 tackles and two sacks against Ranger Community College. Games like that prompted a scholarship offer from Liberty. 

Besides being a strong force on the football field, Turner's faith in Christ has grown. "My buddy Josh Musselman has been a wonderful example for me on how to better my walk," stated Turner. "To go from no walk with Christ when I stepped on campus, to where I am today, has been such a blessing I have received in the form of people like Josh and the university as a whole." 

Turner still has that boxing itch in his eye despite not being active in the sport in a few years. "I tried out for the Athens Olympic Games, but it did not work out for me," said Turner. "I want to jump on that horse again and I have a great opportunity to go to Northern Michigan University and be a part of their U.S. Olympic Education Program when my football playing career is over." 

A criminal justice major, Turner has his eyes set on a possible career in special units such as DEA or SWAT among other occupations if boxing does not work out. "I admire my dad so much and he has been so supportive of me in all my endeavors that I have also considered going into the Navy because he use to serve in that branch," said Turner. 

As the sun sets on Turner's football career, he will hold special the fan support he has seen at Williams Stadium this season. "The fans have been amazing, they have created a true college football atmosphere here," said Turner. "The noise and excitement they have formed is what college football is all about and what I aspired to experience in my own personal career. I just the enthusiasm continues for our last two home games." 

Growing up as a well-conditioned athlete, going round after round in the ring, Turner will carry that strength onto the field for the remainder of the season as the fighter hasn't heard the that final bell yet.

By Vincent Briedis
Liberty University Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director