Kyle Turley is a former All-Pro NFL Offensive lineman who played eight seasons in the NFL. Kyle was Selected 7th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1998 NFL draft out of San Diego State. He played five seasons for the New Orleans Saints and a year with the St. Louis Rams before a serious back injury sidelined him for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. He returned to football in 2006 as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent the last two years of his career before announcing his retirement in December 2007. Since retiring, Kyle has focused his efforts in advocating for retired NFL players and is also an advocate for cannabis. Due to his strong belief in the medical benefits of cannabis, Kyle launched a CBD supplement company called Neuro Armor. Most recently he started coaching football at Riverside City College (Listen all the way through this episode to hear about the interesting and concerning athletic trainer situation at this school).
Kyle Grew up in the rural towns of Utah. His father, John Turley played quarterback at BYU, so football was in his blood. Kyle describes his father as an American Cowboy who drove trucks while Kyle was growing up, and eventually became a farmer. In Utah, there weren't enough kids around to field football teams, but even after his family moved to southern California when he was 10, they didn't have the money to let him play. Despite this, he remembers playing football in the parks and in gym class, and frequently had coaches telling him that he could play in the NFL one day.
In high school Kyle struggled in school and that prevented him from playing football. He was very into skateboarding and surfing at this time and excelled in both wrestling and baseball (Kyle described baseball as a "hang-out sport." This part of the interview made me laugh). When Kyle got to his senior year his Dad mentioned that this would be his last chance to give football a try. In addition to not having the grades to play before his senior season, Kyle was also slightly afraid of getting injured, especially being a self-described "skinny surfer skater kid" at the time.
Kyle obviously had a very successful senior year on the defensive line, which ultimately led to him receiving a scholarship to San Diego State University. He credits his success to the skills and confidence wrestling gave him. Kyle's wrestling coach was also the d-line coach and told him told him to go get the ball and make sure your jersey shows up on film around the ball every play and he would get a scholarship. This reminded me my interview with David Milewski in Episode 72, because its amazing what you can do as an athlete when you keep things simple and bust your ass.
“There is no way to change the game, it is going to happen”
To this day the intangibles that Kyle looks for in his players at Riverside City College are positive attitudes and a willingness to learn. Side note: I asked Kyle if he coaches football differently due to what his body has gone through and said “There is no way to change the game, it is going to happen." That being the case, he said if he could go back, he would cut out some of the unnecessary "extracurricular" hitting he did. Kyle embodied this mindset in his playing days and it served him well when he ended up redshirting in his freshman season at San Diego State. Kyle was brought in as a DE/OLB and was frequently helping out the team by running scout team. Fortunately or unfortunately for Kyle, he really excelled on the scout team offensive line. After his freshman year, a new coaching regime was brought in and during our conversation, Kyle takes us through the moment that he officially moved to the offensive line. The new o-line coach who played 17 years in the NFL was introduced at a team meeting and Kyle felt an immediate connection.
While in college, Kyle dislocated his knee cap during a spring practice after getting his leg rolled onto by another player. We talked about the mental and emotional toll this type of injury had on him, but also how he was determined to prove everyone wrong and the injury wrong. Kyle played his senior season despite having teams think of him as a first round draft pick as a junior. We then talked about the insurance policy top draft prospects can take out in case of future injury. After getting drafted 7th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1998 NFL draft, Kyle was lucky enough to remain injury free for his first 6 years in the league. Kyle credits this health to pure luck. This streak ended when he signed with the St. Louis Rams and these injuries changed his life, not just his football career. Specifically Kyle suffered a severe concussion, which left him unconscious and disoriented. In this episode, Kyle takes us through the protocol, or lack thereof at that time in the NFL. Without going into the whole story, Kyle's wife had to flag down an officer at the stadium to bring him to the hospital. The two of them got in the back of the police car, and doctors were astonished by a blurred mass that was presented on his scan. The next day they said he was free to participate in practice and he played the next week.
"Your life is being active as an athlete, when you take that away from someone and to have pain and injuries on top of that, it's tough."
This is the point where Kyle's physical and mental health began to change for the worse. We eventually discuss what Kyle's transition to life after football was like after a nagging back injury and an ankle injury. In addition Kyle constantly suffered from vertigo and migraines. Pills were always the go-to remedies for these ailments and Kyle largely believes they are what led to his mental health struggles, which included suicidal thoughts. The one thing Kyle would do differently if he could go back, would be to not take all the pills because they turned him into someone that he wasn't and left him feeling like he didn't have any control. Kyle felt like a junkie by being on all of the pills, so he began to educate himself on medical marijuana. Although he was afraid to use marijuana while playing football, today he credits cannabis for saving his life because it helped him get off his previous prescriptions. He feels so passionately about the benefits cannabis has to offer to the world he launched the CBD supplement company, Neuro Amour (Cognitive Therapy Evolved, CTE). Kyle was nice enough to give me a sample of the Neuro Armour Extract and I can definitely attest to sleeping more soundly throughout the night.
Music has always been a part of Kyle's life. Every team he was on he would rent music equipment and he would play with his teammates during training camp. He describes playing music as an escape from the daily grind. Kyle recommends all athletes find a healthy escape from their sport from time to time. When in college, he also found his escape in surfing. Kyle dove deeper into the music world after his career, and we analyze some of the lyrics in his song "Fly'n Helmets" (Listen to his live recording below). Specifically we talk about the dynamics of the NFL and the NFL Players Association and how they treat retired players. Kyle paints the picture of this dynamic by describing his last day in the NFL and I'm sure you will be as astounded as I was when you listen.
This was a particularly special episode for me because I have hit 80 episodes and also because it proves that if you have a vision, you can make anything happen. I came across Kyle's story when I first started the podcast, and knew I needed to get him on the show one day. I followed him on Instagram, where Kyle always posts the epic sunsets he sees from his back yard. I always pictured myself doing an interview at his house one day ( not in a weird super-fan way ) and it actually happened. Athlete or not, injured or not, if you see it and you believe it, you can undoubtedly achieve it!