GILMER, Texas — The road to Gilmer, Texas has been long for Matt Turner. However, he does not take his journey for granted.

"It's been a blessing," Turner said. "To be able to be a part of young people's lives. This is [as] exciting today as it was 38 years ago."

Matt Turner grew up in the Midwest. It did not take long for him to discover a love for football.

"My dad and I watched games, and I went to Nebraska Cornhusker football games," Turner recalled. "There was a, early on there, was a love for football."

Football was not Turner's only talent. He played third base for Arkansas State University. However, he pursued a career in coaching football after graduating from Arkansas State. That led him to Gilmer, where he spent 12 seasons as offensive coordinator under Jeff Traylor.

"Immediately, I knew it was different. It's just the emphasis and the support, you know, and the community. It was such a part of all the communities," Turner said. "Friday nights, everybody's at the ball game, and that's just is it. That's where people are."

Under Traylor, Turner helped to lead the Buckeyes to three state titles and 12 district titles. He became head coach in 2015. With his promotion, his appreciation for his job grew, thanks to the passion and support of the Gilmer community.

"They really love football, and they [...] love the kids. They really love everything, anything," Turner said.

That community has helped him fall in love with the tight-knit community that he is proud to call home.

"It's a wonderful place to live. Great people. They have very high expectations for their kids, you know. They want them to be the best at what they do. You're humbled because you realize you're just a part of it," Turner said. "We've got great coached here. We've got great faculty, our superintendent, our administration, it's all part of it, you know. And so, I'm very blessed to be a very small part of that."

More than halfway into the season, Turner has his attention focused on the task at hand and the team's motto.

"The quality of toughness I think was important," Turner said. "To our kids, in terms of, really more of the mental toughness, the ability to do when things are hard to make sure your effort, your attitude and your gratitude are all the same." 

That idea of toughness, in addition to the construction going on at the school, led to the motto "Built Tough."

"That's what we're trying to live up to," Turner said. "That's the standard."

The 4-2 Buckeyes will host Spring Hill Friday night in Gilmer.