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Turcotte leaving UMaine
Like many other great athletes, Jared Turcotte went into college hoping it would be a stepping stone toward a career in professional sports.
Unlike many of his peers, however, he realized even before graduating high school that the day may come when he would have to give up his dream and follow a different path.
Because of two failing knees and a reordering of priorities that comes with a young family, Turcotte has had to hang up his spikes sooner than he ever thought he would when he enrolled at the University of Maine over three years ago.
The former Lewiston High School star and college All-American is leaving the University of Maine after this semester and giving up football with one year of eligibility remaining to pursue his other dream of becoming a doctor.
“I have to consider what was best for the future of my family. That’s what it really came down to,” Turcotte said. “It had a lot to do with my knees and all the injuries.”
Turcotte had five surgical procedures while in Orono, three on his knees.
“Since I’ve gotten up there, my knees have not been 100 percent. Over my time there, they’ve slowly gotten worse and worse and worse,” he said.
Six games into last season, he re-aggravated an injury to his left knee and had to miss the rest of the season. He needed a second surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the knee in December and faces the possibility of another operation in the near future.
“If it hurts walking up and down the stairs, then they’re probably not going to feel too good after practicing for two or three hours every day and then going out and playing on Saturday,” Turcotte said.
Doctors tell Turcotte he has about 10 percent of his meniscus remaining in his left knee.
“They took out more of the meniscus in my left knee and they’re talking about doing a bunch of other things to ease the pain and the grinding that’s up in there, possibly a meniscus transplant, which is pretty rare,” he said. “You can’t do much after you have that done. It’s kind of a last resort. Then once the left one gets squared away, we’ve got to talk about what else to do with the right one.”
Turcotte, 21, met with Maine coach Jack Cosgrove in mid-February to notify him of his decision.
Cosgrove said it isn’t unusual for players to face a crossroads during their college career due to injuries and other factors, but Turcotte’s situation is rare.
“I think the big picture got bigger for him,” he said. “This is not a young man that only has himself to be responsible for. He has his child, his wife, his family and his future to consider.”
Turcotte has applied to Bates College for the 2011-12 academic year and met with Bates officials about the possibility of transferring. He expects to get the Lewiston college’s answer in April.
He intended to pursue a pre-med curriculum when he enrolled at Maine in the fall of 2007. but the time commitment to football led him to take on a lighter academic load and study kinesiology instead. He said enrolling at Bates gives him a better chance of matriculating into med school. For now, the plan is to become an orthopedic surgeon, although that could change, he said.
“I’ve been observing some surgeries with one of the surgeons who works with the athletic department and it’s pretty cool stuff,” he said.
Last summer, Turcotte married his wife, Aaliyah, who is also enrolled at Maine. The newlyweds have a five-month old daughter, Aiva.
He went into his junior season excited about his new family and the possibility of returning to the form that earned him All-American honors after his redshirt freshman year. He missed all of 2009 with a sports hernia that required two operations, yet had been given 2010 preseason all-conference and All-American honors.
Before his latest knee injury, he rushed 99 times for 452 yards and three touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 89 yards. After sitting out half the season, he applied for a medical waiver to receive another year of eligibility, but was denied.
He redshirted his first year at Maine, then burst onto the scene in 2008. He led the Black Bears with 105 carries, 625 yards and seven TDs rushing in addition to 25 catches for 285 yards and 1 TD. Maine reached the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, losing to Northern Iowa in the first round, and Turcotte was named all-CAA and All-American by The Sports Network.
Turcotte had to battle through injuries to start all 13 games at fullback that season. Cosgrove recalled being criticized for not using him more, but said managing the running back’s injuries sometimes kept him out of practice all week. By the playoff game, he said, Turcotte could be used as little more than a decoy.
“We were using him as much as we could based upon his health,” Cosgrove said. “I know there were two times he travelled (for a road game) on Friday and we didn’t know if he could play (on Saturday) or not.”
At the completion of this semester, Turcotte would be one semester from completing his undergrad degree, but he doesn’t know how many of his credits will transfer to Bates.
He is glad that his mother, Nadine, stressed the importance of a good education from the time he was little. But he is disappointed his promising football career was cut short by injuries.
“To go from an All-American season my freshman year with all of these high hopes of being a repeat All-American, jumping up to first team All-American the last three years of eligibility I had left… To go from those hopes to considering whether or not I can physically play the game any more, it really, really sucks,” he said.
By Randy Whitehouse, Sun Journal