Head coach and team owner Doug Berry watches Jeff Turcotte sign to play for Mass Effect, an Arena Football team based in Fall River, Massachusetts. Edward Monigan photo

Jeff Turcotte spends his days preparing oxygen tanks for hospitals and labs battling COVID-19 — and looking forward to playing for Mass Effect — an Arena Football team.

Turcotte, 26, who is right in the thick of a pandemic, signed with the Fall River, Massachusetts, football team on March 2 and would have opened the season with the team on March 28. The coronavirus put Mass Effect’s season on hold until late May.

But the Lewiston High School and Hebron Academy graduate is getting his daily workouts hefting those heavy oxygen tanks.

“I am actually employed over at Maine Oxy,” Turcotte said. “We are setting up a whole bunch of oxygen tanks and sending them up to hospitals and labs. We are pretty much the essential workers on the front lines and we are trying to do our best to help.”

But he has never wavered in his pursuit of playing football at higher level. 

“Football is the best thing next to my family,” Turcotte said. “It’s been a way to meet a lot of great friends. It is where I have been able to keep myself going — physically, mentally strong.

“It is truly been a blessing to just jump right back on the field and to play with these guys,” he said. “It is just a dream come true.”

Husson College’s Jeff Turcotte (34) battles with another player. Monty Rand Photography

FOOTBALL HAS A HOLD ON HIM

Turcotte was a running back and outside linebacker for former Lewiston coach Bill County before graduating in 2012. 

“His character is unsurpassed,” County said. “Even today when he contacts me here and there on a text, it is always, ‘Love you coach. You’ve done so much for me.’ It is those kind of things. He is just a real fun kid to have around.

“As well as a leader, he was a mentor,” County said. “His work ethic is beyond reproach. He loves being in the weight room. He does it right. He has all those components: Leadership, athletic ability, character — all those things that make you a good football player.”

He spent the next year playing football for Hebron Academy.

“They actually (Lumberjacks) approached me about a post-graduate opportunity to pretty much getting myself ready for the college atmosphere, not jumping into it head first and kind of getting myself comfortable with study habits. They actually heard about me from coach Bill County.”

Turcotte headed to Husson College to major in sports management and play football. He wore many helmets for the Eagles, playing fullback, linebacker and defensive end.

“I went in my freshman year as a fullback,” Turcotte recalled. “I played a lot of special teams, pretty much anything I could to fill in, really. I found my knack on defense and they ended up switching me to defensive end and linebacker.”

Turcotte also did a three-year stint playing for the semi-pro team Southern Maine Raging Bulls. But he wanted to continue playing the game at a higher level and decided to give Arena Football a try this year.

THE GREAT INDOORS

Turcotte said Arena Football has taken hold around the nation. His Mass Effect team is a member of the Indoor Elite Football league in Massachusetts.

“It is really starting to become a really big deal,” he said. “What it really does is it gives a lot of guys that may have not had the best opportunity to getting looked at, scouted at and have them be able to showcase their ability in a faster role.”

Jeff Turcotte stands with former Lewiston coach Bill County. Submitted photo

He pointed out that many Arena players have gone to bigger and better things like receiving offers to play the game in Europe, Mexico and the NFL and CFL.

Turcotte is confident he will be an effective player for Mass Effect when the team begins its season at Driscoll Arena — a revamped hockey arena in Fall River.

“Our team slogan right now is ‘feel the effect,’” he said. “We want everybody to know that we are a strong team. We are a strong-willed group and we have a lot of local, great talent from the Massachusetts through the Rhode Island area as well.

“You really have to be light on your feet,” Turcotte said. “You have to be quick with your reactions because the Arena game is a lot faster than what you may see on a regular field.”

He added that his team is in it for the long haul and he is betting Mass Effect will put on a good show. 

County thinks Turcotte’s pursuit of playing football at this level is a worthy endeavor.

“I think that when he got out of Husson, he was looking for somewhere where he could play,” County said.  “A lot of these young men feel that way and they never find it. But Jeff has got some unique talents along with being a great kid. I am glad he has found some place to play. I am kind of excited about it.

Jeff Turcotte is ready to go from the scrimmage line for the Southern Maine Raging Bulls. Michael Cox photo

“I always thought he would find a place (to play football). I didn’t know if he was going to go to Canada or what was going to happen,” said County, who is an assistant coach at Leavitt. “With his work ethic, he is going to fit in anywhere. I think he will be successful.”

For Turcotte, the speed of the game attracted him to this brand of football.

“I am always down for a challenge,” he said. “I grew up playing the original American game where you were playing on the field with 11 other guys and just going at it.

“When it comes down to this Arena game, it is a little different for me. It kind of opened up my horizon a little bit. Also, I was able to get a chance. It’s just another opportunity to show my skills and to see if I really still have it.”

But football is more than just a game to Turcotte.

“I appreciate everybody that helped me get to this moment —  family, coaches, friends,” he said. “I just want to let all the kids around this area know there is a way to work your butt off. When you do, you will benefit tremendously.

“There were plenty of times where I sat there and I thought of giving up on my football dream. Just stay strong, stay tough and keep fighting,” he said. “Both my parents, Michael and Jodi Turcotte, they definitely paved the way for me and they would give the shirt off their back for anybody. I am truly blessed to have them.”


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