With a school deadline bearing down, four-time Super Bowl champion Keena Turner and his daughter Ella sat, stared at and tweaked the first slide of a project. Minutes turned to an hour, and an hour turned to two.
That night in 2019 was slipping away fast, and there was still more to do. But this wasn’t a common case of a parent helping a child through an assignment. The opposite, in fact.
“He would be on the same slide for hours,” Ella Turner said. “I’d have to say, ‘Dad, we have about 10 more to go, we can’t be on this one slide for two hours. We’ve got to keep going, and if you want to come back when we’re done with everything, we can come back.’ There were a couple times when I was like, ‘That’s great, you can move on now.’ He just had really high standards.”
That Keena Turner took an exceedingly serious approach to his return to college — more than four decades after departing Purdue for the NFL — should come as no surprise. As a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers from 1980 to 1990, Turner was an integral part of the dynastic Niners. All he’s ever known is the highest level of achievement, and he was determined to apply it to his return to college at the age of 60.
Much like in his football life, Turner, now 62, wanted an appropriately poetic final chapter for all of his hard work: the opportunity to share a graduation day with Ella at his alma mater.
A plan that had its share of stops and starts over the past 40 years finally came to fruition on May 15 in West Lafayette, Indiana. That day, Keena and Ella Turner walked side by side into Ross-Ade Stadium, the same venue where Turner had earned consecutive All-Big Ten honors as a junior and senior, and settled in for a ceremony that felt like it might never happen.
“Here’s the stadium I played in, and it had all those kind of emotions and memories,” Keena Turner said. “Over this last year, we weren’t sure if there would be a physical graduation, so there was all of this uncertainty about how it would happen, and so for Purdue to have a physical graduation and have all the graduates in the stadium and getting the opportunity to be acknowledged by family and friends in this way, it was great.
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SOURCE: ESPN, Nick Wagoner