When Kevin was told in 2010 that he had A.L.S., Nolan stopped playing football for his middle school team. As to why, it depends on whom you ask.
According to Raymond, Kevin asked Nolan to do so. “He said: ‘Won’t you sit out a year and see if this is what you want to do?’” Raymond said. “‘You’ve got to really love football to know if this is the beating you want to take and you go through the age where the bones need to grow and you put on weight.’”
Joyce, who had three children with Kevin before they divorced, said: “At the time, his dad and I thought: Well, maybe he’s not playing because of what his dad is going through. But now, if you ask Nolan, it was ‘Our team was absolutely terrible. I wanted to focus on basketball.’ I was so excited. I thought it was because of the dangers of football.”
Nolan laughed when his mom’s recollection was recounted for him.
“Whatever she said you take it with a grain of salt because it’s usually never true,” he said, all but rolling his eyes. “She has her own stories. I thought I was going to be a basketball star in eighth grade so I was not going to play football.”
He returned to football a year later because he missed it.
Nolan, who used to watch his father’s old videotapes in a V.C.R. — “I’m glad I’m not playing against him; he used to kill people back there,” he said — discussed the dangers of the sport with his father, but said his father never tried to dissuade him from playing. The discipline, camaraderie and life lessons that he took from football were hard to replicate in other sports, Nolan said.
If others in the family were anxious when Nolan suffered a concussion during his senior year in high school, Nolan was not. He termed it “a slight concussion” even though specialists say there is no such thing.
“I didn’t really give it all that much thought,” Nolan said.
Walking away from football is not easy for a family like the Turners. Raymond played in high school and then coached Kevin for almost a decade, beginning at age 5. Kevin then coached his two boys. Nolan began to play tackle football when he was 8. “It’s hard to get out of your blood,” Joyce said.