Offensive linemen are typically anonymous hunks of muscle and pads who only get recognized for a fleeting moment when they commit a penalty. Kyle Turley was not your typical lineman. By appearance alone he stood out from the rest of his uniformed line mates, with his striking tattoos and long blond locks spilling out of his helmet. Then, in 2001, when he ripped an opponent’s helmet clean off and flung it aside like an apple core, he committed a flagrant penalty that lives in infamy. That episode, joined with his aggressive personality and dangerous charisma, made him NFL’s first rock star offensive lineman.
Now that the All-Pro has retired, he is aiming to become a country music star. Turley labels his style of music “power country,” and his lyrics draw on his life, which happens to have been lived on a gridiron. On tour for his album, Anger Management, he and his band perform songs such as “Flying Helmets” and “My Soul Bleeds Black and Gold.” The latter is a tribute to his New Orleans Saints, a team he predicts will beat the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl next year. He ponders playing the Super Bowl halftime show before dismissing the thought by saying, “It’ll never happen: The NFL doesn’t like me.”
INKED: We had no idea you played music.
KYLE TURLEY: I started messing around with a guitar when I was around 15, before I played football. I was a southern California kid who always had a guitar in his hand, and then senior year of high school I made the decision to play football and that just took over my life.
Why did you start playing football so late in life?
I guess that is considered pretty late. I always wanted to play football but I knew that practice was going to cut into my summer vacation, and I’d rather be surfing than training and weight lifting. My dad, who played football, convinced me that the last year of high school was my last chance, and when I committed I did so 100 percent. I was a lanky skater kid who started to put on muscle.
Lanky doesn’t normally translate into NFL offensive lineman.
I actually started out as a defensive lineman and they just told me to tackle the guy with the ball, but then when I went to San Diego State I switched to offensive line because one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever play the game, Ed White, was the coach and I figured if I would ever have the chance to play in the NFL it would be through his coaching.
You’ve made mention in the past that offensive linemen are smarter than defensive linemen.
The general population of the offensive line is more intelligent than the defensive line because on offense you have to know what every player does on every play, while there is no intricacy to the defensive line—they just go after the ball. Another coach of mine, Jim Hanifan, referred to defensive linemen as geraniums because they don’t have much to think about. Now, I never claimed brightest—like I said, I was a Valley kid—but I’m not a defensive lineman.
How did a SoCal kid become a country music singer?
I like to call my brand of music “power country.” I’m not trying to plug myself into some kind of mold that has been proven to make money in Nashville. I’m an artist who is trying to express myself, and I draw on my musical influences and life as a football player. I grew up in a scene heavily laden with punk rock. One of my friends was Chad Larson, the bass player of the Aquabats, and we used to go see bands like Tool and Blink-182 before they got big. My old man was a truck driver, and when I rode around in his cab he played old-school country music like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings. And when I started playing sports I found that metal bands like Slayer, Pantera, and Crowbar in the locker room really got me fired up. So when I sat down to write my record, Anger Management, that is what flowed out of me.