Quarantine brings different challenges to every person. The Packers starting right guard Billy Turner is making the most of it. It is no secret that Turner has his own style with vibrant colors and unique patterns, which embodies the fun, positive person he has become. We started off our conversation talking about an instagram post that showed him doing, as he captioned, “Covid Creations.” Here is what he had to say:
“Me and a buddy I grew up with, aside from making and creating stuff, are starting a non-profit that is called Kind Energy Foundation. We are setting up a little COVID-19 relief initiative that should be out later in the week. We are selling T-shirts that say Kind Energy on them and #Kindness4COVID on the sleeve. 100% of the proceeds will go to COVID-19 relief. I also have a couple connections in China and am going to bring N95 masks over to donate to a couple hospitals. We also are going to try to set something up that if someone donates an X amount of money, I will be making them a fully custom piece of clothing. And besides that, my brand should be out by the start of the season.”
Turner is using his talents and passions in designing to show kindness to others around him in such a difficult time. The “Kind Energy Foundation” is not his first project. He started the “Irie Project” as well, which paired up with an art teacher to get students to help create custom clothing. You can see other Packer players like Rodgers, Bakhtiari and Za’Darius Smith rocking custom Turner designs.
When asked where his interest for fashion came from and when it started, Turner mentioned how his family was always “fashion forward” and “trendy”. He started to develop a passion for design when he had trouble finding clothes that were his size. He started to bleach, add splatter and tie dye clothes to fit his style and size. He went on to say:
“Over the last six, six and a half years, it kind of went from just creating to hiring a project manager and a couple interns. Now I have a force working towards an actual brand that I will have out in a couple months.”
After I tried to get him to start a fashion war with Russell Westbrook by trying to see who had the best style, Turner answered the question like a seasoned vet:
“I am not going to say neither him nor me. I will say they are different, but I do mess with his style 100%.” He went on to say how Westbrook’s style fits him and “speaks to who he is, which is what I try to do with my fashion on a daily basis.” For what it’s worth, I give my vote to Turner. His style is second to none, and he sets the bar high for all athletes.
After talking about quarantine and his fashion, we started to dive into more NFL talk. He started by going over his journey into the NFL. Turner played college ball for North Dakota State, and was drafted in the 3rd round by the Miami Dolphins in 2014. As he said, “When I was down in Miami, obviously getting drafted in the 3rd round, I was ecstatic. The high of all highs. Then that first preseason game I ended up breaking my foot and was out for eight weeks. When I got back I didn’t see a lot of playing time and was bounced around a lot of positions. I played like 12-14 games and thought I played pretty well. A new coaching staff came in and I was getting moved around again. Never really found a home in Miami.”
Turner’s time in Miami was cut short in 2016 when he was released from the team, but quickly was claimed off waivers by Baltimore. Bad luck struck when an injury caused the Ravens to bring someone up from the practice squad, which meant they needed to release Turner to create a roster spot. They had plans to resign him after their next game, but a talent like Turner does not last long on waivers. The Denver Broncos claimed Billy Turner, and it was in Denver that his career got back on track.
“I spent the next two and a half years in Denver. Honestly, Denver was where I fell in love with football again. I enjoyed going to work and enjoyed playing and competing. Obviously Miami is a great city and a fun place to live when you’re young, but from a work standpoint it wasn’t a good situation for me. Getting released and landing in Denver was definitely a blessing in disguise because that is where everything started to go back uphill for me.”
Turner took his time in Denver to show he can be a dominant force at the NFL level. He earned himself a four year, $28 million contract with Green Bay during the 2019 offseason. He came to Green Bay to start at right guard, and solidified a shaky offensive line from the 2018 season.
After going to his fourth team, I wanted to ask Turner how important chemistry is for an offensive line. “It is very important, but with that being said very few offensive lines go in year and year out with the same starting five dudes. That’s a rarity in this sport. That being said it is important to develop chemistry whether with a new guy or within a new system. It is big because you have to trust what you see and trust that guy. All five of us and six sometimes have to in-sync.”
The Packers, like many teams as Turner pointed out, brought in a new right tackle this year. Rick Wagner signed with the Packers this offseason to replace Bulaga who agreed on a deal with the Chargers. Wagner is an experienced veteran, but still is new to the system. The quarantine has brought challenges to teams building chemistry, so I asked Turner what he is doing to try and create that connection while being apart.
“Yeah, I mean it’s definitely tough. We are supposed to start the offseason program April 20th, which is obviously not going to be able to happen. We are going to be on some apps to go over new plays. Communication is going to happen virtually, which is not the same as in person, but we are going to have to make it work and it’s a little adversity we are going to have to figure out and move forward to be the best we can be. . . It is what it is, but at the end of the day we aren’t the only team facing these challenges.”
Turner hit the nail on the head. They are not the only team facing this challenge, and the NFL isn’t the only sport that has changed. In this global pandemic the Packers will need to adjust and find ways to succeed. They found a way around adversity last season when they took a team that missed the playoffs with the 12th pick in the draft to one game away from the Super Bowl. I asked Turner what the team needed to do to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Green Bay next season. Here is what he had to say:
“Honestly, I think just a little more consistency. We went 13-3 and were one game away, but it didn’t feel like there was a lot of consistency in a lot of areas of our football team. Whether that be offense, defense, special teams, it didn’t feel like we played one game all four quarters
completely through. I think that moving forward, that is one thing our coaching staff and a lot of guys on our team are excited about, but also something we are going to work on as much as we can this offseason with things being a little different. Once we are back in the facilities, I think they are going to harp a lot on the fundamentals of our game and our plays. We will get really, really good at the basics of the game, so when you get in tough situations you can fall back and rely on those fundamentals. Being able to rely on fundamentals in a team game like this is big because you face a lot of adversity throughout the course of a football game that is unpredictable. You go into a game with a gameplan, but you might have to completely switch that gameplan up by the 3rd or 4th quarter.”
One of the situations teams have to adjust to, as Turner mentioned, are injuries. Last season, Bulaga and Linsley both missed time with injuries and the team had to adjust. In the 2019 training camp and preseason, the Packers had lineups that included Elgton Jenkins at right guard and Turner at right tackle. So I asked Turner if that is something we could see this season, except with Taylor taking over the right guard spot. What he had to say showed the type of team first mentality you love to see in players:
“Yeah I mean honestly moving around positions is something that has happened throughout my career whether that be in practice or in games. Doesn’t really bother me anymore. At the end of the day my objective, my goal is to win at any cost, so if that means me playing a different position, playing tackle if I have to, I am not going to fuss or complain about it. I want to win games, and however we win games I’m down to do it that way.”
Before I wrapped the interview up with Turner, I wanted to see how he transitioned from Miami and Denver to the small town of Green Bay. He mentioned how he went to school in Fargo, North Dakota, which wasn’t much different from Green Bay. He has relied on old habits and lifestyles he formed in college to help make the most of Green Bay, which is a city he has fallen in love with.
“Green Bay is not far fetched or different from what I went through those three and a half years of college. I rely on some habits and life back in the day, but the places that I have lived, I love all of them. Green Bay is not very big, not a lot of people there, but definitely during the season it is peaceful because I don’t have a lot going on, so I am able to focus on things and focus on the task at hand which is to win football games and be successful.”
Billy Turner came on as a free agent last season and has become a team favorite who brings a fun, positive attitude day in and day out. He is going to be the veteran lineman on the right side, with the departure of Bulaga. But as he said he is ready to do what he needs to and win games. The work ethic, team first mentality and experience he brings to the team will continue to help push them to the Super Bowl title they have their eyes on this season. Turner has been a great addition to the team and the city of Green Bay as a whole. Remember to check out Kindenergyfoundation.com, and as my favorite Billy Turner tattoo says: “stay weird.”