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Work, eat, practice, do it again: How Eastern’s Javon Turner survived on one hour of sleep, but still played football

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Work, eat, practice, do it again: How Eastern’s Javon Turner survived on one hour of sleep, but still played football

Eastern redshirt-senior Javon Turner (16) plays defense on his teamate Alexander Hollins (15) during a practice at O’Brien Field on Wednesday. Turner was put on full scholarship by Eastern this season, prior to that he was working nights at Planet Fitness and playing football during the day to afford school.

Eastern redshirt-senior Javon Turner (16) plays defense on his teamate Alexander Hollins (15) during a practice at O’Brien Field on Wednesday. Turner was put on full scholarship by Eastern this season, prior to that he was working nights at Planet Fitness and playing football during the day to afford school.

JJ Bullock

Eastern redshirt-senior Javon Turner (16) plays defense on his teamate Alexander Hollins (15) during a practice at O’Brien Field on Wednesday. Turner was put on full scholarship by Eastern this season, prior to that he was working nights at Planet Fitness and playing football during the day to afford school.

JJ Bullock

JJ Bullock

Eastern redshirt-senior Javon Turner (16) plays defense on his teamate Alexander Hollins (15) during a practice at O’Brien Field on Wednesday. Turner was put on full scholarship by Eastern this season, prior to that he was working nights at Planet Fitness and playing football during the day to afford school.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

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Javon Turner was just waiting for days off from his job at Planet Fitness, so he could finally get a normal amount of rest. 

Eastern’s redshirt-senior cornerback was caught in a sleepless loop during the football team’s fall camp this season where his days were ending at 6 a.m. and beginning again at 6:30 a.m. 

Turner was struggling. But, most of his teammates and coaches did not know.

They knew Turner was having to leave nighttime meetings early so he could get to work, but what they did not know was that he was only getting about one hour of sleep per day, all so he could continue to do what he loved while affording school: play football. 

“I have been playing this game since I was, like, 9 years old, and I mean I love it and my time is running out, so might as well make the most of it,” Turner said. 

That childhood love for the game is what motivated Turner to grind through grueling days in fall camp, when his day would begin at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast with his teammates in Stevenson Hall, followed by team meeting and practice, lunch, weights and more meetings. 

When all of that finally began to wind down around 10 p.m., Turner would go to his shift at Planet Fitness, which ran from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., then be back at Stevenson to do it all over again. 

His sleep schedule was, to say, a little bit off. 

“I probably got like a 30-minute nap in between from when I got off work to when I had to start, and we also had an hour break for lunch, so I would try to hurry up and eat lunch and then take a quick nap and get back to football,” Turner said.

That ridiculous schedule Turner was putting himself through to afford school all changed, however, when Eastern head coach Kim Dameron and the rest of the program decided to award Turner a full football scholarship for his senior season. 

Eastern cornerback Javon Turner plays press coverage on a teammate in practice Wednesday at O’Brien Field. Turner is a converted wide receiver now playing defensive back for the Panthers.

JJ Bullock
Eastern cornerback Javon Turner plays press coverage on a teammate in practice Wednesday at O’Brien Field. Turner is a converted wide receiver now playing defensive back for the Panthers.

With the full scholarship given, Turner’s long days were finally over, something he called “a blessing.”

“I thank Coach Dameron, I thank God, because I was really struggling,” Turner said. “I really wasn’t sleeping, to be honest with you. I was just waiting on my days off from work. But God works in mysterious ways, and it all paid off.”

Turner never really talked about hard times he was going through during fall camp. That’s not who he is. He is not a whiner, not going to feel sorry for himself. Dameron describes him as just a guy who “takes care of his business” and is “a hard worker.”

“My position coach knew I had to leave to go to work early, but I didn’t really make too much of a deal about it just because I am not that type of person,” Turner said. “I don’t want to say that I don’t really like handouts, but I don’t really beg and all that other stuff.”

Even when talking to Turner about his 23.5-hour summer schedule, one could never really tell it even bothered him. Everything he says is with a smile on his face and with a hint of gratitude underneath every word.

When asked if he still had to work at Planet Fitness after getting his full scholarship, Turner laughed and said, “Nah, I quit.”

Giving Turner a full scholarship was something Dameron called a “no-brainer.” Turner had been helping the team on the field in his first three seasons in a litany of ways. He started as a scout-team receiver, worked his way on to special teams and now this season is getting playing time at cornerback after converting from receiver.

“Javon, he had one year left, and he had helped us in the past and leading into this year, I knew he was going to play a significant role, whether it be as a wideout or whether it be as a corner,” Dameron said.

Getting to Eastern is another part of Turner’s career that is just a little unorthodox. Turner started his football career in 2014 as a freshman at Penn State. He was redshirted his first season and placed on the practice squad in 2015. After that he decided he needed a change and left. 

From there, as Dameron puts it, Turner just “showed up” at Eastern to play football. 

“I just heard that he was a kid that was transferring here from Penn State, and we invited him to walk on,” Dameron said. “Those are great success stories, and that’s one of the great things about this level of football, is that a kid can come here who really wants to work hard and wants to play, and if he works hard enough and has a little talent, who knows where he might end up.”

The transition for Turner from Penn State was different for Turner largely because of the difference in school size. In 2016 Penn State had 47,261 students on campus, and Eastern had just 6,548 on campus. 

But, Turner says his teammates embraced him and he loves the community. 

After all that he has been through in his pursuit to play football, Turner can now sleep easy knowing that at least the cost of his school is taken care of. 

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]

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JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

Hey, I'm JJ Bullock and I am the Sports Editor. I am a junior journalism major. I spent last year as the Assistant Sports Editor. Prior to that I served...

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Work, eat, practice, do it again: How Eastern’s Javon Turner survived on one hour of sleep, but still played football