Florida teen flagged after end zone prayer

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Fort Myers High School football player Sam Turner kneels in prayer after a touchdown Friday, honoring God and paying tribute to slain teammate Jo Jo Brunson who was honored in a pre-game ceremony. Photo by Cyndi L. Hendry/Special to The News-Press | Photo by Cyndi L. Hendry/Special to The News-Press/Used with permission

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Christian Examiner) -- Last Friday, Fort Myers High School freshman Sam Turner caught a 27-yard touchdown pass then drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The 16-year-old's offense was a bent knee to the ground, a single finger to the heavens and a brief prayer thanking God.

It was his first touchdown as a high school player.

Turner told the Fort Myers CBS affiliate that he was confused after seeing the penalty flag.

"Are you seriously flagging me right now? What did I do wrong, " the teen said of his initial thoughts. "Eventually the ref came up and talked to me and said I was trying to bring attention to myself."

The Washington Times reported that the National Federation of State High School Associations' states a player can be penalized for "any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself."

But according to Turner, "that wasn't the case at all."

"I was just trying to thank God," he said, adding that he pointed to the sky to honor his friend Jojo Brunson, who had been murdered in a drive-by shooting in April of 2013.

The 15-yard penalty didn't affect the outcome of the game, which Fort Myers won 49-0, but it has affected Turner who has received an overwhelming, positive response from his team and community.

"There have been tons of support from my family and friends," he said. "They are proud of me that I stood firm in my faith."

The teen, who has been playing since he was 8 years old, said he hopes to play football in college.