Coach Learned the True Meaning of Strength from a Strong Mom
Nine years after her hard-drinking husband abandoned her, Vicky Turner's strength left too.
Not her emotional strength, which she relied on to raise five fine children, including San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner.
It was her physical strength that suddenly and mysteriously vanished. Neighbors helped her get to the hospital, and she was diagnosed with MS.
The family survived on public assistance, but thanks to Vicky's high spirits, the children never seemed to notice the things they didn't have. "She was remarkable," Turner said. "Despite her physical limitations, the great thing is she found a way to make our childhoods very, very normal. The thing I took from her was her great strength. I often tell people that through all the tough times, she never really complained. She made the most of the situation."
Turner and his brothers were heavily into sports because "athletics gave you a chance to be equal," he said. "It doesn't matter who has the nicest jeans or the most expensive tennis shoes when you are playing ball."
Athletics also provided positive male influences and, for Norv, a professional aspiration. "My brothers and I were very fortunate to have a lot of good coaches who cared about us not only as players but as people. There was no question early on that my career would be coaching."
After quarterbacking at the University of Oregon, Turner immediately turned to coaching, rising through the ranks at USC and the Los Angeles Rams. He got his first head coach appointment from the Washington Redskins in 1994, then went to the Oakland Raiders before he was named the 14th head coach of the San Diego Chargers in July 2007. That season, Turner became only the sixth coach in NFL history to lead his team to a championship game in his first season at the helm.
When Turner was 15, Vicky married Ralph Lee. "He was a great guy. He did a great job of helping my mom, taking care of her for the rest of her life. She needed a wheelchair for about 10 years before she spent her last 10 years in a convalescent home." Vicky passed away in 1989, when Norv was 37.
"Two things my mom instilled in us were a real understanding of the difference between right and wrong, and a work ethic," said Norv. "If you're going to be successful — if you're going to make it through the things you're going to have to go through — you better understand that you have to commit to something, and you have to commit to it 100% and do what it takes."
About 10 years ago, Turner's sister, Janis, also was diagnosed with MS. Today, Janis, 59, is doing well with her disease, thanks to advances in MS research.
"Thanks to people giving money and time and effort, things are easier on people who have been diagnosed" than in Vicky's time, Turner said. "We don't have a cure yet, but my mom always had hope that, someday, there would be a cure that could help her and others. Coaching football, compared to what I saw my mother go through, is not that tough."
Click here to view a video prepared by the Pacific South Coast Chapter when it honored Coach Turner as a Champion for his commitment to a world free of MS in July 2008. Turner later joined the chapter's board of directors.
Photos: Mike Nowak/San Diego Chargers