“I have coached Travis Prentice, the MAC’s all-time leading rusher. I was at Miami when Deland McCullough played and have defended many of the other great runningbacks the MAC has had to offer. I would have to say that Michael Turner is one of the top three backs I have seen come through the MAC.”

—Terry Hoeppner,
Miami (OH) head coach

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Michael Turner - #32
6-0 * 228 *
North Chicago

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> Q&A with Michael Turner

> Testimonials of Michael Turner

Question & Answer

Question: You’re on several pre-season All-America teams and mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. How does it feel?

Michael Turner: “It’s an honor for me, our program, our coaches, our players. It’s what any player wants. The recognition, hopefully, it gives me a better chance to be where I want to be.”

Q: Where’s that?

MT: “The NFL…”

Q: Where do you see yourself in a year?

MT: “Hopefully, in an NFL training camp.”

Q: Is that your life-long goal?

MT: “It’s always been the NFL. When I first started playing football in the seventh grade, I wanted to play college football even more.”

Q: Have you ever thought about all the guys you’ve played football with since the seventh grade and where you are now?

MT: “Every year (I do). More and more guys don’t make it. It’s a blessing to have such an opportunity right in front of me.”

Q: What does football mean to you?

MT: “It can open doors. It’s a game, but it has given me a scholarship to go to college and an opportunity to make this a career.”

Q: Where did you get this speed?

MT: “My parents didn’t play (football). Maybe my cousin (Robert Turner). He was supposed to have a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys.”

Q: Your best time in the 40?

MT: “A :04.38 after my freshman year. I was lighter back then (laughs).”

Q: Do you think your size (six-feet, 228 pounds) and speed make an unusual package?

MT: “I guess it might be unique. The next level (pro football) picks up on that. I don’t know. I just run.”

Q: Why do you play football?

MT: “It’s fun. For me, it’s an escape from everything else. You can enjoy the moment with my teammates and build camaraderie.”

Q: Doesn’t football come at a high price? Aren’t you sore on Sunday?

MT: “Yeah. It’s part of football. Tuesday, you’re back to normal. It’s like the coaches say: If you don’t feel any pain, then you didn’t do anything on Saturday.”

Q: On your favorites’ list, you selected Jim Brown as your all-time NFL runningback. Why him?

MT: “I saw some old films. Jim Brown was ahead of his time. He never showed if he was hurt or anything like that. He may have gotten back up slowly and, on the next play, he would’ve run over you.”

Q: Last year, you finished second in the country in rushing. In the past, Northern Illinois has had two national rushing champions in Mark Kellar and LeShon Johnson. Would you like to follow in their footsteps and win the NCAA rushing title in 2003?

MT: “First, I’d really like to win the football game. Statistics come second. Yeah, I’d like to, but I can’t control that.”

Q: Does some of this pre-season hype or expectations put any pressure on you?

MT: “It’s not a burden. I feel the pressure a little bit. It comes with the territory of being a good runningback. Coach Novak says I will have a target on my jersey. I think it will bring something extra to our games this year.”

Q: What about your good friend and former teammate Thomas Hammock? What wisdom did he pass on to you?

MT: “Thomas had great character. His heart. He wanted it real bad. He didn’t expect anyone to give anything to him. Everything he wanted, he just went out there, worked hard, and got it himself. Week in and week out, there was always something he would help me with. Little things about the game. Pointers and tips.”

Q: What about your offensive line?

MT: “They don’t get the spotlight. I get my name out there because I carry the ball. That’s the game. But they take great pride in their blocking. They take pride in my success, too.”

Q: What if you win the NCAA rushing title?

MT: “If I win it, I’m taking them out to dinner. Put in parenthesis McDonald’s (laughs). No, I’ll take them to dinner.”

Q: What are you working on this summer?

MT: “I work on a lot of things. Keeping my body healthy. Working on my footwork. Maintaining my weight. Keeping my speed.”

Q: Any significance to your jersey and No. 32?

MT: “No, they just gave it (the number) to me. Good runningbacks tend to wear No. 32 (laughs).”

Q: I noticed on your favorites’ list that you put down ‘Big Mike’ as your nickname. What about ‘Turner the Burner?’ Don’t you like it?

MT: “It’s catchy, I guess (laughs). I don’t have any problems with it.”

Q: Does it fit?

MT: “Yes.”

Q: What happens when the opposition starts razzing you about being ‘Turner the Burner?’

MT: “I’ll just try to keep my cool. I’m sure they (opposition) will be talking to me, but my job is to get first downs and touchdowns.”

Q: You are one of the team’s 2003 quint-captains. What is your role there?

MT: “I’m not a vocal person. The team, they know me. They know what I’ve done. It’s kind of a ‘do it on the field’ thing and then the younger guys can pick up on it.”

Q: Your team suffered a great loss with the tragic death of offensive tackle Shea Fitzgerald this summer. What are your reactions?

MT: “It’s a shock. I couldn’t imagine losing not only a fellow player but a human being at that age. We were with Shea for two years. It’s a shame. Our team, we’ve talked, and we’ll make a memorial out of his locker and wear his number on all of our jerseys. It’s hard to believe.”

Q: Who are your best friends on the team?

MT: “I hang out with everybody. Randee Drew and Keith Perry, I suppose.”

Q: When you get together, do you guys talk about how close Northern Illinois was to getting to the MAC Championship Game and what you can do this fall?

MT: “We talk about it all the time. Anytime two Northern Illinois football players get together, all we talk about is how we can’t wait for the football season to start.”

Q: Why did you say that ‘inside zone’ was your favorite play?

MT: “I just read the hole and that determines if I cut back or not. It’s my favorite play because I can do what I want to do.”

Q: Did the emergence of quarterback Josh Haldi and the passing game last year help?

MT: “Oh yeah, the balanced offense makes everything easier. When both aspects of the offense get going, that’s great. The (opposition) defense cannot overlook the rest of this team. This is where my teammates fit in. It’s their turn to shine. I’m not the only person on this team.”

Q: Are you happy you chose Northern Illinois? Any regrets?

MT: “I’m happy I came here. This was the first scholarship offer. I wanted to go to the team that wanted me.”

Q: What about coach Novak’s “East Coast offense” that features an emphasis on running the football?

MT: “Being a runningback, of course, it’s great.”


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