NCAA allows Boise State to help homeless player

The defensive tackle from Fullerton (Calif.) College has lived in his girlfriend's car.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMay 15, 2014 

Defensive line commit Antoine Turner

Boise State football recruit Antoine Turner's homelessness became a national story Tuesday — sparking outrage from coast to coast that NCAA rules wouldn't allow the Broncos or their fans to help.

It wasn't even noteworthy to him.

Turner survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and was homeless while playing junior college football in California until his girlfriend's uncles offered him shelter.

KTVB reported Sunday that Turner was living in hotel rooms and his girlfriend's car because rules governing subsidized housing prevented him from staying with the uncles. But Turner didn't tell the coaches at Boise State, where he is set to arrive for summer school June 1.

"Every time we call him, it's, 'How you doing?' 'Great.' He never let on that he has a rough situation," coach Bryan Harsin said Wednesday. "To me, you have to allow a guy to continue with that to some degree. For whatever reason, that's part of his life. He's not ashamed of it. He's adapted to make it work. … He's not looking for a handout. He's dealing with his situation."

Still, Boise State wanted to help.

And on Wednesday, the NCAA approved the school's request to provide unspecified assistance to Turner. He needs to finish the semester at Fullerton College, which runs through next week, to become eligible to play at Boise State. It's also possible he'll have to stay until July if he comes up short this semester.

( Update: Boise State is providing a hotel room and three meals a day for football recruit Antoine Turner, per a team spokesman.)

Turner declined an interview request from the Idaho Statesman on Wednesday. He said he needed to focus on his schoolwork.

He tweeted the following Wednesday afternoon:

"The guy is resilient," Harsin said before the NCAA ruling. "I've been happy with the support from people who have reached out (to try to help). The hard part is explaining that you can't."

Turner grew up in New Orleans. He didn't have the grades to play major college football, so he moved to California on his own.

"Nobody in my family was really doing anything, going to college," Turner said in February, shortly before he signed his letter of intent. "I didn't want that to be me. I wanted to go do something different with my life, so I left."

Turner wasn't on an athletic scholarship at Fullerton. California community colleges don't offer them, according to Jason Boggs, the assistant director of sports information and communications for the California Community College Athletic Association.

"I went homeless three or four or five times and I couldn't stay stable because I didn't have any help from anybody," Turner said. "It was just me out here trying to get it."

His weight dropped from 280 pounds to 220 before he met his girlfriend and her family. Her uncles housed him, trained him and got his weight back up to 280.

Turner recorded 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, four pass breakups and an interception as a redshirt sophomore last season.

He is expected to contribute immediately at Boise State this fall.

"It's been a long journey," Turner said. "This was a dream come true. I never thought I'd get to this point in my life, going through what I went through."

Said Boise State defensive line coach Steve Caldwell: "He knows what it means to have to work. He worked himself into a situation where he could come to Boise State. I'm expecting big things out of him, and I'm expecting them early."

Turner goes on scholarship when he arrives in Boise, so he'll have a stable place to live and enough money for three meals a day.

That doesn't mean he can relax.

"He's had unfortunate situations, and he knows it, and we've talked about it," Harsin said, "but the reality is, I told him the other night, 'Your situation is going to change as far as living goes, but your life is going to get harder because you're going to come here and you're going to graduate and we're going to expect a lot out of you.' His response is, 'That's what I want.' "

Turner committed to Boise State, the only school to offer a scholarship, because of the interest the coaches showed in him. They included his girlfriend's family when they visited.

"I could have visited other schools, but Boise wanted me there," Turner said. "… Family means everything to me and it means everything to Boise, too. I feel like I have a family when I go to Boise."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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