BY CHAD DARE
DANVILLE — Very few players get an opportunity to start on the Danville varsity football team as a sophomore.
Danville's Deonta Turner was one of those few players as he was thrust into a starting linebacker position a year ago.
But things didn't go very well for Turner, who had just 18 tackles on the year and just five in the final six games for the Vikings as he lost his starting position midway through the season.
"Sometimes when you are short on bodies, you try to accelerate the process like we did with Deonta last year,'' Danville coach B.J. Luke said. "He had a very athletic body and we thought he was ready. But it was probably a little earlier than it should have been.''
And after such a disappointing season, Turner could have easily given up. But that just isn't his way.
"There was no way that I was going to quit the team,'' said Turner, who is currently fourth on the Vikings with 29 tackles. "Football is my favorite sport and I always knew that I was going to back playing this year.
"I just had to work my way back and work in the summer at getting that starting spot back this year.''
And the 6-foot, 190-pound junior has been one of the bright spots on a Danville team that is just 1-3 heading into Friday's game at Decatur Eisenhower.
"I'm real proud of Deonta,'' Luke said. "He made a big jump from where he was last year as a sophomore. He worked hard in the weight room during the offseason and he is really do a nice job at the outside linebacker spot.
"He responded from losing his starting spot last year and he has made himself much better player this season.''
But don't expect Turner to tell you exactly what he did to get himself ready for this year. He isn't one of those players that likes to talking about himself, he would much rather tell you about what the team did over the summer.
"The way that we have worked together and practiced, getting ready for these games,'' said Turner, when asked what his favorite part of this year has been. "We just have to keep working hard, win the rest of these games and make it to the playoffs.''
Those are all the type of things that every coach likes to hear from one of his standout players.
"He's another one of our kids that doesn't say a lot,'' Luke said. "I like those guys. They show you by their actions.''
That's definitely been the case this season for Turner.
In the past two games, a win over Champaign Centennial and last week's loss to Normal West, the outside linebacker has made 20 tackles.
"Deonta flies to the ball and he is really aggressive,'' said junior defensive end Tyvon Cooper. "I think he wants it a little more than he did last year.
"He really grew up a lot since last season.''
When he's not on the football field, Turner admitted he is like every other high school student.
"I do school work, hang out with friends and hang out with my girlfriend,'' he said, admitting that he isn't quite as shy around his family and friends. "I'm just not a big talker about myself.''
So, what is important to him?
"My school work. I really try to pay close attention to the things in school,'' he said. "My goal is to play football in college.''
And a his major?
"It will probably be something like engineering,'' he said. "I really like working with tools and with my hands.''
And if the football field is an indication, Turner definitely doesn't mind getting his hands dirty or working hard.
"No, those are two things that I take pride in doing both on and off the field,'' he said.
Turner will be a starting outside linebacker tonight for the Vikings when they take on the Decatur Eisenhower Panthers in a Big 12 Conference football game in Decatur. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.