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Harrisonburg, Va., offensive tackle Landon Turner knows a little bit about the recently history of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, especially when it comes to Virginia offensive linemen. And the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder is excited about continuing a recent tradition of big lineman from his home state making an impact in the game.
"When I was a freshman in high school I started to hear about the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but at that time it was just sort of watching the game and thinking how nice it would be to play in it, but it wasn't really a goal because it didn't seem possible," said Turner who received his Army jersey on Friday at a pep rally at his school. "And the last two years I saw Morgan Moses and Quinton Spain get selected and play in the game which was great. I'm glad to continue the tradition."
Does Turner think it's a Virginia thing with all of these offensive linemen making the game lately?
"No, I think every state has great linemen," he said. "I think Virginia has good ones too and it's kind of neat that we'll have one in the game for three years in a row now. But I don't think it's anything about Virginia, we have good players every year at every position."
Turner first got on the radar when he went to the U.S. Army Underclassmen Combine last January and worked out against some of the best of the best from across the country.
"It was a good experience and I thought I did pretty well, at least I held my own," he said. "I was hoping some people noticed me but didn't really give it that much thought afterwards. So when I got the call about being selected to the game months later, I was surprised but also really excited. The worst part was that I couldn't tell anyone because they wanted to keep it quiet until the selection announcements were made. I was bursting to tell everyone, but I told my family and that helped me out. But I am so glad to receive my jersey and make it official, it's a great feeling."
Turner is one of the biggest players in the country and that size comes from his mother and father, the former being tall and the latter possessing size that helped him during his playing days at West Virginia as a linebacker.
"My dad is West Turner and he played at West Virginia in the 1980's," said Landon. "He's not as big as I am but he was a big guy. My mom is tall as well so I guess that's where I get it, but I'm the only offensive lineman in my family so I guess it's a little rare. I don't consider myself a huge guy though, I try to stay as athletic as I can."
Turner's athleticism has allowed him to play almost every position on the offensive line this season for his undefeated Harrisonburg team.
"I've played left and right tackle, left guard and center this year," he said. "On defense I play nose guard and defensive tackle but I've also played some middle linebacker. I'll probably be a guard in college but I like to think I could play any position along the line."
And speaking of college, Turner committed to North Carolina in July and took his official visit a few weekends ago. However, with NCAA inquiries into the UNC football program regarding academics and agents, there have been rumors that the talented lineman could be re-thinking things.
"Not true at all," he said. "I've read a few of those things about me looking around. I can tell you this, I haven't talked to any other school since I committed to North Carolina and I don't plan to unless something drastic happens. I am not worried one bit about UNC because they have complied with the NCAA every step of the way and they contact me weekly to keep me in the loop as to what is happening. I think coach (Butch) Davis has handled this well and I love the school, the players and the coaches. The only way I'd switch is if the entire staff was let go because then it would make no sense to go there with no one around who recruited me, but I don't see that happening. I'm excited about heading to UNC."
And Turner is excited about heading to San Antonio as well for the big game.
"It will be great to see where I stand compared to other top college prospects and it will allow me to learn and get better," he said. "The fact that it's sponsored by the Army makes it even better. The Army, to me, represents honor and courage and character and playing in the game is my little way of giving back to the troops and showing them how proud we are for their service. It will be a special week."