Julius Turner’s final college game was Nov. 27 when the Rutgers defensive lineman and his Scarlet Knights teammates took on Maryland.
The former Meridian High School standout said he’s feeling several different emotions as he gets set to transition from college to professional football, as Turner will graduate from Rutgers later this month after a decorated career for the Scarlet Knights.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Turner said. “I’m just taking it all in right now. It probably won’t hit me (that my college career has concluded) until the team banquet we have coming up.”
After signing with Rutgers in 2016, Turner redshirted for the Scarlet Knights that fall before going on to play in 57 consecutive games for Rutgers, a team record. Since the NCAA granted athletes an extra year of eligibility after the COVID-19 2020-21 school year, Turner opted to return to Rutgers this fall to earn a master’s degree in labor education after already getting a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Turner finished the 2021 season with 16 solo tackles, 18 assists, one pass deflection, 2 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble. While he wouldn’t describe 2021 as a perfect season, Turner said he has no regrets about returning for a sixth year.
“It was a pretty good season,” Turner said. “You always wish you could do better, but I feel like I left it all out there. It was a blessing to finish the season healthy so I can get ready for the next big thing.”
Signing with Rutgers out of high school meant moving more than 1,000 miles away from home to attend college, but Turner said he has no regrets doing so.
“I felt like it was an opportunity I needed to take full advantage of,” Turner recalled. “We play in the Big 10 conference, which is a great football conference, so I just took my chances and packed everything up and came here.”
Since most high school football players never play a down in college, much less play for a Power 5 school, Turner said he’s humbled to have gotten such an opportunity, and he hopes he served as an example for other children in Meridian whose dreams would potentially take them far from home.
“Whether their dream is to play football or whatever it is, I would just say to follow your dreams and stay with it,” Turner said. “Meridian was always on my mind here. I was always calling my coaches, especially Coach (Demetrius) Hill, my defensive line coach. He always wanted to know what was going on with the football team. I also take a lot of pride in having played for Meridian High under Coach (Larry) Weems.”
After this semester, Turner will have a second degree in hand, and he said he’s just as proud for accomplishing that as he is for playing college football in the Big 10.
“When I came up here, the first thing I wanted for my parents and for myself was to get that first degree, so getting that second one is even better,” Turner said.
Ron Turner, Julius Turner’s father, said he’s proud of everything his son has accomplished up to this point and is confident the younger Turner has even more goals to reach.
“The emphasis has always been placed on education,” Ron Turner said. “I’m proud of his educational accomplishments, and everything else fell within that territory. I’m proud and humble he had a lot of patience after going through a redshirt year (in 2016), and we were concerned about him dealing with COVID and other obstacles, so we’re very proud of him.”
In January, Julius Turner said he’ll begin training for the NFL, and he plans to participate in Rutgers’ pro day prior to the NFL Draft.
“I’ve been on my feet taking it all in,” Julius Turner said. “I have to get to training, and next month I start, but I don’t know where yet.”
Playing in the NFL has been a lifelong dream of his son’s, Ron Turner said.
“One of the things we really wanted him to do is reach after some of his goals and actually be in position to have an opportunity to do that,” Ron Turner said. “Should we see him playing on Sundays, it would be a blessing for our family and very exciting for the community. I’m happy for all he’s done.”
Turner is also the son of Angela Turner.