Fifteen minutes of fame

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Professional football players, with their enormous size and talent to match, are just regular people.

Former Calgary Stampeder Robert (Packy) Turner is out to prove it.

Turner is observing Stamps practice this week and chatting with players to work on his dissertation thesis, The Life and Mind of a Professional Football Player.

In his study, Turner is delving into the mindset of men who are in the public spotlight only for a short time.

Other than the likes of the ageless Damon Allen, careers generally only last a few years and players need to prepare for the next phase of life. Turner is dissecting how they cope to losing the structure the game gives them.

"The theory I'm working on is about the athletes and the way they make sense of their world," said Turner, 43. "The mechanisms are the same as ordinary people. The have the same pressures but they're more pronounced. They are exacerbated because people see them so much.

"One of the things I'm really looking at is how they live their everyday lives and the stardom factor. You have society that imposes its ways and beliefs on them thinking that professional athletes should be role models."

Turner's study will take him through NFL camps as well but he's here in Calgary to work with his old coach Tom Higgins. When Turner played with the Stamps back in 1987-88, Higgins was an assistant coach with the club and the two were good friends.

The two haven't seen each other since Turner took off for the NFL the following year but the former running back/defensive back has kept in touch with Higgins' father. Tom Higgins Sr. coached Turner in high school in New Jersey and he considers the elder Higgins his athletic mentor.

So Higgins Jr. was pleased to see him at practice working towards his PhD and helping promote the game as well.

"He's going to be Dr. Turner soon," said Higgins. "We're trying to help him out in a couple of comparisons. He's looking at players who have NFL experience and CFL experience."

Higgins said Turner couldn't have picked a better place where players need to formulate a alternate career plan.

"That's one of the things the CFL offers," Higgins said. "We have them for four and a half hours a day so they can start working on their second career before their main career ends."

Turner hopes to turn his thesis into a book and a documentary movie on the subject eventually. He hopes the material will aid players in getting ready for the next phase before it's too late.

After his career ended, Turner did well as an entrepreneur and his transition was easy. Others weren't so lucky.


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