by Ryan Meehan
In 1998, the New Orleans Saints selected offensive tackle Kyle Turley with the seventh overall pick in the draft. Turley had been a consensus All-American at San Diego State and he would go on to play nine seasons in the National Football League where he was an All-Pro in 2000 and 2003. As one of the more recognizable offensive linemen in the league, Turley became very outspoken about the treatment of current and former NFL players before and after he retired in 2007. Since then, he has been very active with that cause as well as getting into the business of Country and Rock N’ Roll as he has been involved with several musical projects. The remainder of the year is going to be a big one for Kyle, and we are very excited to have him as our guest today in 5 questions.
RM: Looking back on your time in the NFL, which accomplishment are you most proud of and why is that particular achievement so important to you?
KT: There is a lot of things in my career that I can probably put to that as an answer, but off of the top of my head the most important thing that I ever did was donate a game check to the retired players’ cause. In 2007, I donated a game check to Mike Ditka’s organization “The Gridiron Greats” and became the first active player to stand alongside the retired players and their fight for justice.
RM: You were one of the 644 players who participated in the study about the use and abuse of prescription drugs done a few years back…What is your overall feeling on the way the NFL treats players like yourself who are retired? (I will ask about Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund in the next question…)
KT: Well, things have gotten a lot better, you could say that. But still at the same time they’re not doing what they should be doing – and that’s taking care of everybody. They are being very selective, and it’s just not right. Because the game of football takes everything from you physically, and when you’re done with it in most cases (because I don’t know any guy that walks away from football and just leaves it because he wants to…) the reality is that you have serious injuries to deal with. As it stands today, the average career length in the NFL is only 3 ½ years…I’m sure that we’ll see that change that will extend with a lot of the protections that players new players will receive and benefit from because of the retired players making as much of a stink as they have about how poor conditions were for a number of years. Still to this day, your insurance runs out and they just don’t seem to believe that they should be responsible for these injuries that you suffered on the football field past that. And lot of these things don’t fully matriculate until down the road, and you’ve got a lot of issues that the game of football creates in people’s lives…that there is NO doubt came from playing football and yet the NFL continued to deny individuals disability.
It’s really bad when you talk about the old guys – the really old guys. Because none of us would be sitting here today – Roger Goddell and anybody who makes millions of dollars off of the National Football League – had it not been for not just the owners and those guys sticking it out and putting their money out there, but the players who played under those conditions back in the day. There’s not that many of them around, and they’re still just trying to pawn those guys off as if to say “well, it’s just old age” and it’s unfortunate.
The NFL’s posture has always been reactive as instead of proactive. It’s really sad and that’s a big part of the problem for players in general who walk away from the game…That real tight knitted close family/fraternity thing that you thought you were always going to be a part of…You’re not a part of that anymore.
RM: Could you tell us a little bit about the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund help to do whatever they can to try to balance that out?
KT: Well, we do what we can and we don’t have the pockets (the funds) of the National Football League. We don’t have a billion dollars sitting in an account like they do directed towards this effort, and being very selective with it…We are giving anything and everything that comes in to us out the door back to these guys: The guys that continue to be denied their disability, and have to have knee replacements, hip replacements and all kinds of different surgeries that players are in need of that the NFL won’t cover because of this reason or that reason…”They missed their window” or whatever excuse they want to give, we pick up that slack where we can.
And we’ve got a great association that’s helping to accomplish what the NFL hasn’t been able to (for whatever reason) accomplish – Pro-bono, medical healthcare for guys. These doctors and medical facilities out there that they hire on to be the team doctor, when players go see those doctors they don’t get charged anything for their visits. And they take that on because the name that they will get in the community as the team doctor provides them with all of the business that they could ever need for years to come. They build massive buildings, their own facilities, once they become those doctors and everybody goes to them because they see that they’re the Titans’ doctors or the Saints’ doctors or whatever, you know? They could easily carry that over after your career is over where you would have constant care through these doctors at no charge because that’s would be the trade-off of being associated with the NFL. We’re finding that as an organization to be the case out there, that there are a lot of hospitals and surgery centers and all kinds of places like that who would love to have that on their building as well. And it’s just sad that they can’t seem to figure that out…that they don’t even have to come out of pocket even. Just allow certain groups to associate with the National Football League and you could get lifetime medical for every player that ever comes through the National Football League’s doors. At no expense to you.
RM: You started Gridiron Records with Tim Pickett after your playing days were over…What did you set out to do by starting that label?
KT: I’ve always had an interest in music, and played music since I was 14…and continue to do it today. I have my own music projects that I work on…throughout my NFL career I was involved heavily with music…I had my side bands during the offseason and even putting together my own bands during the season and produced benefit concerts and things like that…raising money for charities, inner city projects and whatnot…So it’s been a great passion of mine…I had the money at the time so I thought “OK, I got some money that I can throw at it…” I had a couple of projects that were pretty high interest that we were working on…So we set out, and everything was going well until the things that you don’t foresee happen…like the lead singer quits and breaks up the band right when you’re about to make your next move. It’s a process, it takes time, but it’s a business and I enjoy it. I had an opportunity as a player in the National Football League to take advantage of every opportunity I could to see some of the biggest bands that I wanted to see because of who I was (and I definitely used that card) and then come to find out that those people are fans of mine. So some of my closest friends (a majority of my closest friends) are pretty much all musicians. Whether they play in bands, they’re managers, pyrotechnic guys, or just the crew guys…Those are my closest friends still to this day.
RM: You describe your own music as being “power country”…What does that term mean to you and how would you describe the elements that make up that genre as a whole? Does it surprise you a little bit that there aren’t more crossover artists whose music includes aspects of both country and heavy metal?
KT: You know, there are a few people who are trying to do it…And the country world has put their foot in it with the success of certain acts, but nobody’s really owned it and had it being accepted at both levels. No one has really carried the torch moving forward with the Southern rock movement of old. There’s not really a band that’s set out to be the next Lynyrd Skynyrd or anything like that. And that’s the kind of music that I really grew up on along with heavy metal and old school country, and a lot of everything in between…Those are my main interests, and I sit down and write songs based off of what comes out on guitar and in my head…It’s all mine…I write 100% of it and come up with it all, and have very little input from anybody else. There’s only a few guys in my close circle that I even let give opinions on what I write and music that I make, so just kind of “winging it” if you will, but more so just putting out real music that comes from me. I think that’s something that fans can appreciate. There’s nothing fake about it, and I’m definitely giving everything I got to this just like I did in football and I think that it shows in my music when people listen to it.
RM: Back in the spring of 2010, you toured with Hank III in support of the “Anger Management” record…What was that whole experience like for you, and what are some of the things that you’ve learned about the music industry from him?
KT: Hank III gave me a great opportunity right after that first record, I definitely owe that man a great deal of gratitude for that. And it was just an awesome experience to be out on the road, seeing him and what he does. He’s one of the hardest working guys in the industry, and he’s created his own niche for himself…He could easily be riding the coattails of his father and his grandfather, but he has created an entirely different world of music for himself, and I respect the hell out of that. Because he also comes from a punk rock and a heavy metal background, and he’s taken that mentality to the country game. I can only hope that I can get to the level of Hank III, and have the success that he’s had and the fan base that he has…They’re just rabid fans that support everything that he puts out…and obviously it’s great music, but I think at the same time people are as much or more connected to his realness…Just that “There’s nothing fake about this guy”. And I think that I’m on that right track, and I learned those lessons on the road with him, and I’ve definitely carried it over along to everything that I’ve done since.
RM: What’s up next for Kyle Turley and Gridiron Records in the twelve months to come? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
KT: We’ve got a lot going on…On top of the country project I’ve got a side project, I’ve got a metal band that’s a two-piece, a very doom/blues/goth kinda metal band…it’s kinda weird, but it’s very interesting and we’re getting some good buzz around that. We’re about to go in and get an EP recorded for that, and put that out this year as well as a new Turley record coming out – really proud of that record, a new video that we’ll be putting out in a little bit that you’ll be able to see on CMT.com here coming up soon. We’re going to get that all kickstarted with a big crowd-funding campaign that we’re going to do with a lot of great things that we’re going have available for the public to get involved with: Tons of memorabilia and all kinds of different things that I’m throwing in with some of these different packages through a crowd funding company called Indiegogo – A lot of artists have had success with those campaigns. It’s not so much about raising money, as it is about being a conduit for independent artists to really grow their fanbase rapidly in a big way. Really looking forward to that, and that will be happening towards the latter part of July leading into August, and we’ll run that campaign for about 30 days leading up until the football season. Then we’ve got a lot of things that we’re working on this football season, being out on the road and playing a bunch of shows and those will all be coming up on Gridironrecords.com…we’ll have all of the tour dates there and at Kyleturley.com as well. We’ll be releasing a brand new website for the band itself and my country project. A lot happening man, so a few music projects I’m working on, and at the same time holding down the fort with the family and all that, including the charity work everywhere and anywhere that I can.
Gridiron Records Official Website: http://www.gridironrecords.com/
Gridiron Greats Official Website: http://www.gridirongreats.org/
Kyle on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kyleturleymusic
Kyle on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KyleTurley