Rice football senior running back Luke Turner probably played his last game on Saturday. Rice (5-7) isn't likely to get a postseason bowl bid, so after running for 54 yards and throwing a touchdown in the team's final matchup against Charlotte, Turner broke down while reflecting on his four-year career.
Turner, 22, praised Rice head coach David Bailiff, who still put Turner on scholarship even after he broke his leg during his senior year of high school football, putting off most recruiters. "Everyone sold me off," Turner said through tears during a postgame speech. As popularized by the movie "Friday Night Lights," Turner's story could've mirrored Boobie Miles, the once sought-after 1980s high school back who lost his football career and a likely scholarship due to a leg injury.
But thanks to Bailiff, Turner bucked Miles and enjoyed a full college football career, and more importantly to him, received a Rice education.
“I love him forever for it. He helped me get paid for a great education that I know I’ll use very well and he let me keep playing this game that I love," an emotional Turner said through tears.
That "I know I'll use very well" point Turner brought up can't be understated. It sounds like NCAA propaganda, but it's actually refreshing to hear from a student-athlete. The NCAA loves to point out the importance of a college degree when defending why athletes with scholarships aren't also paid for their work. At a July 2014 Congressional hearing, NCAA president Mark Emert cited U.S. Census statistics showing that people with a college degree earn about $1 million more over their lifetime than those without.
But as multiple reports have found, college athletes are often "clustered" into easy majors to help them focus on the field, leaving them ill-prepared for post-graduate careers off-the-field. Suddenly, a "free" education becomes costly.
In Turner's case, however, the Kinesiology degree that he's earning through college football's opportunity feels genuine and legitimately useful.
“My experience here has been the best. That’s all I can say," he said.
Of course, the tears said everything, really.
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