CHARLESTON -- As Eastern Illinois University wide receiver Dennis Turner was going through warm-ups during Saturday’s road game against Northern Illinois, his family was preparing for a bigger issue.
Turner is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Hurricane Irma made its way through his hometown on Sunday afternoon. Irma brought wind gusts of up to 90 miles per hour on Sunday and has since moved north. Currently, no deaths have been reported in Fort Lauderdale according to the Washington Post.
For Turner, the situation is all too familiar. Fort Lauderdale has seen its fair share of hurricanes during his lifetime, so his family knows what to do when this unfortunate situation arises.
“It’s nothing new to us. Hurricanes have been around all my life, so it’s nothing new to me,” Turner said. “I just pray that everything is okay and gets better and we fight through it. … I know my mom and my family just want me to do my stuff. I know they wish the best for me and fight through it. They just want me to pray for them basically.”
Last year Turner’s family dealt with Hurricane Matthew. While Irma was predicted to be a bigger storm, it was reduced to a category three hurricane by Sunday. Turner’s family stuck to the same plan it always has, whether it’s been Irma or Matthew.
“We are used to it, so just doing the usual. Just getting ready for a hurricane,” Turner said. “We just stay at home and be ready for whatever. Stock up on food. Just pray, that’s all you can do. You can’t do anything about it. It’s a natural disaster, just pray.”
Turner’s family wasn’t the only ones who stayed. Traveling south would’ve just put people closer to Irma’s path. Even though Irma is no longer classified as a hurricane, it moved through Florida and is still causing damage. The rainfall could lead to flooding.
So staying at home usually seems like a good option for Turner’s family.
“You really can’t go anywhere if it goes up the coast, you just have to pray, that’s the only thing you can do,” Turner said. “I am 21 years old and I’ve been through a lot (of hurricanes). Katrina was very bad for me. I didn’t have power for weeks. It’s nothing new for me or my family.”
On the field, Turner is hoping to become a key target for the Panthers in his final season. Quarterback Mitch Kimble looked Turner’s way a good amount in the season-opener against Indiana State, but Turner dropped a couple of key passes, both of which would’ve resulted in first downs.
Kimble didn’t lose faith in Turner, though, and the Florida International transfer had his redemption moment in the game when he hauled in Kimble’s 15-yard pass for the game-winning touchdown with 3 seconds left.
“(The drops) were kinda uncharacteristic of me,” Turner said. “I’ve been going to the Jugs machine catching balls and then running routes and catching the ball with the quarterbacks.”
EIU coach Kim Dameron said it was good to see Turner come up with the big redemption moment.
“He’s been very reliable and that’s not like him to have the drops that he had,” Dameron said. “He has a lot of pride and it was great to see him come back and do that for his teammates.”
Turner saw some playing time last season and spent the offseason working with Kimble. He feels the two have good connection this season.
“I think we have a lot of chemistry out on the field,” Turner said. “It’s like two peas in a pod.”
Turner appeared in every game last season after transferring from Florida International. He finished with 18 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns.
This season Turner hopes to be more productive on the field and feels more prepared coming into his senior season.
“I know a lot more of the playbook now and I know as much as the quarterback,” Turner said. “Just knowing what I have to do. You can’t be put on the field if you don’t know what you are doing.”
Dameron said he’s seen an improvement out of Turner and that the senior can have a good impact on the passing game this season.
“Even transfer guys, coming from FIU, it takes guys a while to get acclimated to the program and understand the offense,” Dameron said. “It just doesn’t happen overnight. He did some good things last year, but we felt like now that he’s had an offseason with us, I look for him to continue to make big plays.”