By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 6, 2014) – Kemoko Turay has a problem most people would be envious of: He can’t gain weight easily, and needs to do so.
But he also faces a challenge most people wouldn’t in his quest to get bigger and stronger, adding bulk to a 6-6, 235-pound frame to make him more effective as a defensive end at Rutgers.
Turay, a Muslim, spent four weeks this summer – June 29 to July 28, one of the optimum stretches for football players to work out in preparation for preseason camp – fasting from sunrise to sundown as he observed Ramadan.
So after he built up a voracious appetite from working out all day, he had to wait until 8:30 at night before he could eat something.
“I would lose seven pounds in a day, then at night I would just keep eating and gain back eight pounds. I’d actually wake up at night to eat,” said Turay, a redshirt freshman from Newark, N.J. “During the day when I was working out I was not eating at all. And I was constantly watching my teammates eat after they worked out. It was not easy but I kept me mentally tough.”
Because of the calorie-burning summer workouts, and because he was also looking to also add weight, Turay said he would wake up twice in the middle of the night just to eat during Ramadan.
“I would set the alarm to get up to eat,” he said. “I could only eat from 8:30 at night until 4 a.m. So I’d eat at 8:30, set the alarm for midnight and get up and eat. Then I would go back to sleep and set the alarm again so I could up just before 4. Then I would pray and eat again.”
When Turay arrived at the start of the Scarlet Knights’ preseason camp the needle on the weight scale had hardly budged at all, although he has actually managed to add four pounds since practice began.
“All I’ve been doing since we started camp is eat, but it’s still not easy putting on weight,” he said.
For now, Turay’s physique is much like his athletic ability: Brimming with promise. He is new to the sport, having only started playing organized football his senior year at Barringer High School. Basketball was his first love before he was convinced that his size, athleticism and quickness could make him an impact player in football.
But it requires him to be bulkier and stronger.
“People look at me and think I’m too small because of my weight,” Turay said. “They’ll say `are you a linebacker? Are you a receiver?’ It’s all because of my weight. I’m constantly trying to put on weight.
“I’m getting there. It’s up and down, but I’m getting there. I’m trying to put on good weight. I’m not trying just to add weight if it’s not good weight.”
After sitting out last year, Turay is slotted to be a pass rushing specialist on Rutgers’ defense this season. It’s a role he is comfortable with because of where he is at in his development.
“I’m okay with that for now. That’s where I started at. That’s where my strength is right now,” he said. “But I want to be a complete defensive end. I want to play every down. It takes time. I’m still working on it.
“I’m trying to show people what I am capable of. I need to show people I can be a complete defensive end. I’m constantly working at it, trying to get better, trying to gain weight.”
If it ever comes together, Rutgers could have something special. Turay is doing his part to see that it happens.
“You get tired of constantly hearing about your potential sometimes,” he said. “Since high school it has always been about my potential. `He can do this if he ever develops. He can do that if he keeps working at it.’ So I’m working at it, trying to show people that I can reach that potential. That’s driving me right now – to be as good as I can possibly be.”