Dexter Turner had a number of attractive offers to play college football next fall. But when it came time to make a choice, it was really no contest.
The former Oxford Hills star defensive end Dexter Turner announced Tuesday he has verbally committed to enroll and play football at the University of Maine starting in the fall.
Turner, a 2013 Oxford Hills graduate currently enrolled in prep school at Cushing Academy, accepted a partial scholarship offer from Maine after making his first official visit to the Orono campus last weekend. He was also considering the University of New Hampshire, which knocked Maine out of the FCS playoffs this season, and Division II suitors such as St. Anselm’s and Southern Connecticut State.
“I just felt like it was a great fit for me,” Turner said. “All of the position coaches were great to me and Coach (Jack Cosgrove) is a great guy.”
The South Paris resident had always dreamed of playing at Maine, which is coming off its first Colonial Athletic Association championship. The school’s interest was mutual while he was a Pine Tree Conference All-Star for the Vikings, and Turner went to Cushing in Ashburnham, MA to prepare himself for the academic and athletic demands.
“I was 17 when I graduated high school and I had to mature mentally and physically,” Turner said. “It was a huge deal for me to get a good work ethic for school and football.”
A defensive star at last year’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl, the 6-foot-4, 232-pound Turner is coming off an outstanding season as a defensive end/tight end at Cushing. He was named the team’s defensive player of the year and was nominated to the New England Prepatory School Athletic Council All-New England Team.
“It made me play at a higher level, which is good,” said Turner, who will graduate from Cushing in May. “I hired a personal trainer, Jesse Wall, to get ready for it and the recruiting process and it really made a big difference.”
“He’s been a tremendous kid from day one since he arrived here,” said Cushing football coach Wayne Clarke, whose team finished 3-5 last fall. “The level of competition down here has pushed him to be the absolute best he could be. He rose to the occasion. He never came off the field. He’s one of those kids, you’ve got to put him on the field.”
Turner follows in the footsteps of other Maine high school standouts to Orono, including two current UMaine assistant coaches, former Mt. Blue star Jordan Stevens and former Livermore Falls star Shawn Demaray. Stevens will be Turner’s defensive line coach. Demaray is the Black Bears’ tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
“Coach Stevens and Coach Demaray had a great impact on me because they’re both Maine guys who can relate to me,” Turner said. “I had a good vibe when I went up there. It’s an honor for them to offer me a scholarship.”
A partial scholarship does not guarantee a spot on the football roster, but does open the door for Turner to work towards obtaining a full athletic scholarship.
“That’s what I’ll be working for, and I know with my work ethic I can do it,” said Stevens, who will report to training camp in Orono in July. “I’m really working hard and staying dedicated and not getting caught up in things that distract you.”
Turner will sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA signing period for football.
NCAA rules forbid Cosgrove and all college coaches from commenting on recruits until the school receives their NLI.
Turner dropped by Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Tuesday prior to returning to Cushing to share the news with coaches and former teammates.
“I wanted to tell the football coaches in person before they heard about it from anybody else,” he said. “I’ve been getting so many calls and texts today it’s just ridiculous.”
Turner was a captain and co-MVP his senior year at Oxford Hills. He was second on the team and ranked among the PTC leaders with 75 tackles and was also third on the team in rushing with 256 yards.
“Dexter is the hardest-working athlete I have ever had play for me,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said in an e-mail to the Sun Journal. “He is uncommon in both his abilities and attitude.”
“The coaches at Oxford Hills are incredibly proud of him and cannot wait to watch him play in Orono,” he said. “Maine made a great decision investing in Dexter.”
Cony quarterback and Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Ben Lucas also announced on Tuesday he has verbally committed to Maine.