Ahead of Monday’s College Football National Championship (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) reporter Heather Dinich shares the story behind Clemson safety Nolan Turner.
Many know Turner for his incredible play in the Fiesta Bowl, but few know his full story.
“When Nolan made the interception that sealed Clemson’s win over Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl last month, my ever-inquisitive editor, Dave Wilson, started Googling him,” said Dinich. “He found an article in the Greenville (S.C.) News that had been written about Nolan last season. When I read the story, I couldn’t believe it, but when I started reporting it on my own, it became even more remarkable with each phone call and interview.”
There are a lot of reasons Turner’s story fascinated Dinich but his journey to Clemson was one of the more unusual paths she’s heard.
“There are a LOT of misses in the recruiting world, but Nolan’s story is different because of the myriad of things that had to fall into place for his only Division I scholarship offer – an offer that was the catalyst for a journey from his father’s deathbed to making the interception that sealed Clemson’s trip to this year’s national title game,” said Dinich. “His story is unique because he is the son of an eight-year NFL veteran, Kevin Turner, whose body was crippled by ALS and CTE. But there are so many surreal parts to his story like the fact that he never would have gotten a second look from Swinney if there hadn’t been a mass exodus of DBs after the 2015 season.”
Because of its complexity, Turner’s story was difficult to organize but that wasn’t the biggest challenge for Dinich.
𝘉𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘔𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘰𝘧 2019
"You're going to get the interception to win this game."
That's what Coach Swinney told Nolan Turner in the 4th quarter of the Fiesta Bowl. Sure enough, Nolan made the big play in the biggest moment and secured a trip back to the Natty. #ALLIN pic.twitter.com/qqjgqzbmpz
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) December 31, 2019
“One of the most difficult challenges was figuring out how to convey to readers just how improbable this whole story is. And there is so much more to this story, I couldn’t fit it all in. But I wanted to keep the focus on Nolan and his father’s special relationship with Dabo,” said Dinich.
Throughout the interview process Dinich said two people were instrumental in telling Turner’s incredible story.
“Nolan’s mom, Joyce, was amazingly candid in our interviews and talked easily about extremely difficult things, like details about Kevin’s condition as he deteriorated,” Dinich said. “Kevin’s father, Raymond, was also very helpful in remembering the details of Nolan’s official visit but it was painful for him to talk about the loss of their only child. These stories are hard, but they are so worth telling.”
Marty Smith is the reporter on the accompanying feature (see video above) that will air on College GameDay ahead of the title game on Monday night.