Northwest football’s recruiting class of 2020 consists of nearly 40 freshmen that will step onto campus this summer to begin preparing for the next four years.
The class includes local standouts, the starting quarterback’s little brother and state champions.
It also includes a defensive back from Chicago, Illinois: Josh Turner.
Turner’s journey starts where another one ended. For the most part, Turner was a basketball player. He was never really into the physicality that was presented in football, he said. However, that changed when his cousin, Amari Bell, persuaded him to put the pads on for the first time when he was close to entering middle school.
“He inspired me,” Turner said. “He told me to come play football with him, so I checked it out.”
The duo played football together for a year before being separated due to different leagues. That lone season that Turner and Bell played together would be the last. Bell played in a league across the city, Turner said. Amid one of Bell’s games, a helmet-to-helmet hit put him in the hospital. A couple of days later, Turner said, Bell died due to complications from the injury.
In memory, Turner has played for Bell since the incident. The kid who was a basketball player turned into a Division II football player in honor of his cousin who was somewhat like his brother, Turner said.
“He took everything he had — he put into football,” Turner said. “He was just dedicated so much. You couldn’t tell him anything, he knew everything. So me, I just want to live that out for him, and I’m not going to make no excuse or nothing. So I’m just going to do what I do under any circumstance and take that head-on.”
In some ways, Bell’s influence chawed Turner into the person he has become. The perseverance and determination that Turner preached that Bell had are traits that he carries upon his own shoulders.
If he’s going to do something, Turner said, he’s doing it until it’s finished. No matter what it is, he added. That includes, along with playing for his late cousin, playing for his mother, who is a single parent of three.
“Growing up, I always seen her struggle,” Turner said. “One thing she always told me was to, ‘Never give up.’ … As football went on, that’s one thing that stood out for me as a player and an individual, that I’ll never give up no matter how hurt or anything going on, I’m still gonna play hard and prevail through anything.”
Turner’s presence, he said, is expected to be felt throughout the program. The same kid from Chicago that shied away from the game because of its physicality is looking to instill that immeasurable trait into the program that he’s joining.
“I plan to bring some physicality,” Turner said. “I’m looking to boost the mentality and just show them how the dog that everybody should have to them. I’ll be the standout guy if that’s what it takes, but I’m coming with good vibes, good intentions, to push the team harder and be a young leader.”
That transition from Chicago to Maryville, of course, is drastically different. That, Turner said, is something he’s looking forward to. Turner went into National Signing Day Feb. 4 with offers from MIAA foe Central Missouri, Grand Valley State, University of Sioux Falls and plenty of others. He came out of it with a chance to spend four years at one of the winningest Division II football programs in the country.
“I just felt like, when I came on a visit, it just felt like my home,” Turner said. “It just felt like it was the right place for me. I just like the vibes in the program, the people around, the area. It just felt like a good place for me to develop and grow and create something special for the town.”