“Most explosive player in the MAC.”

—Lindy’s Big Ten

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August 25, 2003


DeKALB, IL --- Is the second time the charm? Why not? Northern Illinois University senior All-America tailback Michael “The Burner” Turner was officially named a candidate for the prestigious Doak Walker National Runningback Award for the second conseuctive season.

The 5-foot-10, 232-pound Turner (North Chicago) made the list of 39 pre-season Doak Walker Award candidates announced by the SMU Athletic Forum Board of Directors in Dallas, TX. As a mid-season supplemental candidate in 2002, “Turner the Burner” wound up among the final eight semi-finalists after rushing for a Mid-American Conference-record 1,915 yards and finishing No. 2 in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1-A ground-gaining a year ago.

As the nation’s leading returning rusher this fall, “Turner the Burner” has made several Heisman Trophy lists and at least 10 pre-season major-college All-America units. In addition, No. 32 made a commitment in May to play in the East-West Shrine Classic next January in San Francisco, CA.

People---media, coaches, the opposition, fans---have started to notice No. 32 more and more.

“Again, the national recognition for Michael and our program is nice,” said Huskie boss Joe Novak. “The Doak Walker Award is about the glamour position in the game---runningback. At the same time, all of us, Michael included, know that you cannot rest on what happened last year. I think, that Michael and his teammates have handled all this very well. But now it’s 2003 and time for new challenges. We all know Michael has the ability to have another outstanding year.”

Novak’s counterpart on the other sideline this Thursday night for the Northern Illinois home opener is impressed.

“He is a big back, six feet, 228 pounds, and runs a :04.4,” said University of Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen last week on his weekly television show. “This guy will be playing on Sundays. Their offense revolves around giving him the football. They play action fake off of him and get some really big plays. Most teams have to put an extra guy in the box to stop him, but they still have trouble stopping him with eight or nine people in the box. That is how good he is.”

Turner is one of five Mid-American Conference backs on the Walker Award pre-season list with Alex Haynes of the University of Central Florida, Bobby Hendry of the University of Akron, Terrence Jackson of Central Michigan University, and Phil Reed of Western Michigan University. Anthony Davis from the University of Wisconsin, Fred Russell from the University of Iowa, and Jason Wright from Northwestern University are the Big Ten Conference candidates.

In 1993, Northern Illinois All-America tailback LeShon “The Cowboy” Johnson---who led the country in rushing with 1,976 yards---was a top three national finalist for the Doak Walker National Runningback Award. Johnson also finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting and made unanimous First-Team All-America that autumn.

“We have another outstanding list of candidates for the Doak Walker Award. It should be a very exciting college football season, and we look forward to watching the progress of each of these student-athletes this fall,” said Randall Goss, chair of the SMU Athletic Forum Board of Directors.

The SMU Athletic Forum will select eight semi-finalists on November 19 and the Doak Walker National Selection Committee will vote on the winner in late November. The National Selection Committee consists of former National Football League All-Pro and college All-America runningbacks, print and electronic media representatives, and select special representatives. The recipient of the 2003 Walker award will be announced live on ESPN on December 11, 2003. The official Doak Walker Award Presentation Banquet will be hoeld at The Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, TX,on February 12, 2004.

Turner is the fifth Northern Illinois player on a 2003 national award pre-season “watch list.” The others include senior center Todd Ghilani (Outland and Rimington), senior placekicker Steve Azar (Lou Groza),senior linebakcer Nick Duffy (Butkus), and junior defensive end Travis Moore (Rotary Lombardi).


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