FORT MYERS, Fla., Nov. 4 (UPI) -- A Florida football player who dropped to a knee in prayer after scoring a touchdown was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty, and the incident has gone viral online.
Sam Turner, a senior at Fort Myers Senior High School in southwest Florida, says he's had "tons of support from my family and friends" since the 15-yard penalty for "excessive celebration."
"They are proud of me that I stood firm in my faith," Turner told WTSP.
The Florida High School Athletic Association says that if a referee feels a player is drawing attention to himself, the call is fair.
Turner said he was excited because it was the first touchdown of his high school football career. He says he's been playing the sport since he was 8 and is very passionate about it.
"I said 'thank you, God, for this talent you've blessed me with'," Turner said of the prayer he said after the score.
Turner's endzone prayer and the penalty has provided fodder for the debate over religion in public life, with many people supporting his display.
So proud of this young man for his faith! // http://t.co/QdBRn6eYkR— Matt Keller (@matthewkeller) November 3, 2014
Turner's coach, Sam Siriani Jr., said he doesn't fault the official. The end zone celebration rule is intended to prevent displays that can taunt an opposing team or selfishly grandstand a player's actions.
"It comes down to a ref's discretion," Siriani said. "To them, they try to follow the letter of the rules."
The field prayer has been made famous recently by Tim Tebow, another football player from Florida. Tebow made it to the NFL and was known for dropping to one knee in prayer after a good play. The practice became known as "Tebowing."
The penalty had no effect on the outcome of the game. Turner's team won 49-0.