A real Rutgers man, Julius Turner draws from Aaron Donald and could be a steal in the 2022 NFL Draft

As the 2022 NFL Draft draws near, Julius Turner looks to change the game as he draws his confidence from Aaron Donald and his family.

Julius Turner admires Aaron Donald. And truly, Aaron Donald should admire Julius Turner. The Rutgers record holder for career games played, Turner’s favorite player is Donald. In fact, Turner credits Donald with helping to not only hone his craft but pave the way for undersized defensive tackles. With his focus now on the 2022 NFL Draft, Pro Football Network sat down with Turner to talk about his career, his goals, and ultimately explain why he’s primed and ready for today’s NFL thanks to Donald.

Julius Turner’s journey from Memphis to Meridian to New Brunswick

No two journeys in football start the same. Turner is no exception to that rule. His journey began in Memphis, Tennessee, before ultimately turning the tide to Meridian, Mississippi.

“Everything started in Mississippi,” Turner told PFN. “I played everything down there from pee wee football to middle school, high school football. I claim Mississippi.”

A three-star recruit from Meridian High School, everything truly did start in Mississippi for Turner. He was ranked as the 112th defensive tackle prospect in his class but the 45th-best player in the state coming out of high school. Turner picked up double-digit offers but ultimately chose Rutgers.

Still, he cites Mississippi as home and a reason for his ability to play at the major college football level.

Switching from basketball to football pays off

A soft-spoken individual, Turner explains his love of the game doesn’t match his demeanor.

“I put the pads on one day and fell in love with the game at a young age,” Turner said. “The position I play is pretty violent, you’re hitting somebody every time. I love the violence of the game. If I have any bad energy, I can go out there and just let loose. That’s why I love the game so much.”

Despite that love, basketball was still his first love. Turner gives credit to his coaches for swaying him away from the hardcourt and onto the gridiron. And once college coaches started calling, it was football all the way.

“It wasn’t until ninth or 10th grade that coaches started calling me that I really said ‘All right, I’ll stick to it.’ So ever since then, it’s been all football,” Turner said.

That all-football approach certainly paid off as Turner signed his letter of intent with Rutgers as a member of their 2016 signing class. Recruited by former Rutgers coach Aaron Henry, Turner played his first game with the Scarlet Knights on September 1, 2017, against Washington.

Turner’s time at Rutgers was illustrious

To hold a record at any major college football program is no easy feat. Earning an individual honor at an FBS university requires more than skill. It requires dedication, effort, work, strength, devotion, and — of course — skill on the field.

Turner’s 58 career games played are a Rutgers record

Again, to hold a record at any major college football program is no easy feat. Just had to reiterate that here. However, to hold a record on the oldest football team in the world is monumental.

Turner owns the record for most games played in a career for Rutgers, a program that dates its first game back in 1869. In over 160 years of football, Turner owns the most durable record the school has to offer. Yet, he’s so much more than just a durable lineman in the trenches. He was also productive during his time with the Scarlet Knights.

Through his five seasons, Turner recorded 6 total sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss, 5 pass breakups, and 179 total tackles. But don’t let box score numbers fool you, either. Being a defensive tackle is about so much more than sacks. It takes craft and skill to defeat pass blockers. There’s stuffing the run and disrupting rushing lanes. So much goes into the position if you want to get out what Turner got out of it.

“Impacting the run game is more than just stops,” Turner said. “You beat a pulling guard and you’ve changed the point of attack. You take out a rushing lane and you’ve opened up the chance for your teammate to grab a TFL.”

If you beat the hands, you beat the man

On just how he does interrupt the rushing game as well as the pass, Turner again points back to Donald and the honing of his craft.

“I’m the type of player that uses his quickness a lot. I like to react,” Turner said. “If you beat the hands, you beat the man. If the offensive line throws his hands, I’ll hit him with a swipe. Or I’ll try to get under his pads. I’ll hit him with a bull-n-pull. Really just whatever the offensive line gives me, I’m going to take it.”

It’s that versatility in his pass-rush moves that separates Turner from the majority of the 2022 NFL Draft class on the interior. That includes his ability to get under the pad level of offensive linemen, and his capacity to swipe away blockers with quick hands while not losing speed or strength at the same time. Additionally, his flexibility on where he can line up along the defensive front should make him a contributor on an NFL roster very soon.

“0(-tech) to 5(-tech) is where I like to line up, you know, we played an average 3-man front so I liked to play 4-I,” Turner said about his desired alignment. “I like the inside the most. Nose and 3-tech just because it’s the closest path to everything. I like to cause penetration and create havoc in the backfield.”

A great man is about to enter the NFL

For the majority of football players, the ultimate goal is making it to the NFL. Actually making it in the NFL is another story. For Turner, while becoming a pro is absolutely his goal, his life aspirations are much bigger. And ultimately, the NFL will be better because of him.

What drives Julius Turner?

It didn’t take long to understand where Turner gets his drive. It also didn’t take any longer to see where his motivation and drive originated. His love for family, community, and making those behind him proud stands tall.

“What drives me is my family,” Turner said. “I got a lot of support behind me, my mom, my dad, and all my family in Memphis, they drive and motivate me every day. I got a lot of family and support who help me keep going.”

A well-grounded individual, Turner understands the road ahead is a long one. As an undersized defensive tackle prospect in today’s NFL, Turner actually uses that, along with his family and support system, as his motivation.

“Another thing is the chip on my shoulder,” Turner said. “Being a little undersized, that drives me a lot in trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do it on and off the field.”

Being great isn’t just about on-field success for Turner

Turner won’t just be known for his on-field success both at Rutgers and eventually in the NFL. His work off the field and impact throughout his community will be felt — as it certainly already has at Rutgers, Meridian, and Memphis.

“You don’t have to make all the money in the world to be happy,” Turner said. “I just want to be a great husband, a great supporter. I want to just be a great man. That’s how I was raised, what my mom and dad really taught me.”

Talking to anyone who knows Turner, you already get the impression that he is indeed that great man. He’s only getting better. And his platform is only getting larger.

As the NFL Draft grows closer, Turner’s confidence grows

Like his platform and ability on the field, Turner’s confidence is only growing. And in turn, so will his impact on the game of football and in life. Turner thanks Donald for that.

“(Donald) really give a lot of confidence to guys like me,” Turner said. “I’m glad to be in a position to do the same now. Not just play in the NFL but showcase to those younger kids, if you’re an undersized defensive lineman, it’s not just about that. It’s about that confidence that you can do it. Keep pushing. Keep grinding. You will eventually get there.”

Well, Julius, you’re there. And you’re an inspiration in the process. You’re carrying on Donald’s legacy, and he should be thanking you for that.

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