Tennessee’s Brandon Turnage eyes full return after a 2022 season-ending injury

Big Orange Kickoff
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 1:57 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2023 at 3:31 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The 2022 season was more of the same for Brandon Turnage, bookended with injuries. This injury took a toll on him mentally, as it sidelined him in spring ball, further delaying his return to the team.

As he continues to make a full recovery he can breathe a sigh of relief. However, it’s a reality that required him to shift his mindset.

“It was a long process,” said Turnage.

A season-ending injury suffered in week nine against South Carolina sidelined Turnage through spring practice.

“It was a tough journey, was a real tough journey. It was, it was a very tough journey,” said Turnage.

Turnage added, “Everywhere I’ve been I’ve had to compete. So really my mindset was focus on me.”

That change took form in Turnage waking up earlier and finding ways off the field to keep up with the team.

“Really what led to that change was being that everything was creeping up so fast. I said, ‘Man, I got to change some of my habits. I got to do certain things that I don’t usually do so I can try to see if I can see better results.’” said Turnage.

If there was ever a season to not miss spring ball, it’d be this year. With all six starters returning and the addition of four newcomers, the defensive back room was stacked with competition.

“I knew we were getting closer and closer to spring ball, closer to fall and I still wasn’t feeling right. It was kind of difficult. And, you know, I feel like I was kind of battling myself and you know, kind of making it worse,” said Turnage.

As the redshirt senior battled to get healthy, he found hope in his daughter, Aspen.

“[Aspen] always keep my spirits up. Because she’s always very energetic. She always loves to play, smile. She always comes and kisses me you know? Say, ‘Dadda what’s wrong?’ If I don’t look happy... trying to do whatever she can to make things better.”

A moment the DB cherishes most in the Orange and White comes after the final whistle. When he pulls his daughter from the stands and brings her onto the field in some of his biggest moments.

“I just try to make all those good memories last, I do it so that she is not a shy girl. I wanted to be outgoing. I try to bring around everybody so that she’s an outgoing person, knows how to talk to people, and knows how to treat people all the time,” said Turnage.

Turnage continued, “Is really fun because, you know, most of the time it means that we won so, you know, it’s real fun. You know, it brings a smile to my face and puts a smile on her face..”

Secondary’s coach Willie Martinez said, “He gives you a chance because he’s smart. He gives you a chance because he’s a guy who’s selfless”

“We have coaches that give you confidence, shine a light on you when you do good, but you know, get on ‘em when you do wrong. I mean, kind of have no choice but to continue to excel once you see that they see something real good in you,” said Turnage.

Martinez added, “Just got to continue to keep him in the right frame of mind and keep on pushing him to where he can show the consistency he had when he got the opportunity last year when he was healthy.”

Turnage reflected on the off-season, “The time that I was down and not able to compete in spring ball it was kind of depressing. But now that I got the opportunity, I try to maximize every one that I get.”

Turnage is second on the depth chart ahead of the Tennessee-Florida game. When he described his goals for 2023, he said it’s all about being a team player and leader in the locker room. Adding that he’s ready to do whatever it takes to help the team ‘win the East.’