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January 6, 2003
NORTHERN ILLINOIS TB MICHAEL TURNER, WR DAN SHELDON NAMED ON FOOTBALL DIGEST ALL-AMERICA
DeKALB, IL --- Want a good omen for Northern Illinois University football in 2003? Consider the fact that the season has been over for almost two months and Huskie players are still popping up on 2002 All-America teams.
Yup, "The Burner" and "The Returner" did it again. Deja vu NIU. Better known as tailback Michael Turner (North Chicago) and wide receiver-return specialist Dan Sheldon (Elgin / Burlington Central), respectively, that duo made Second-Team All-America in the January issue of Football Digest. The word is getting around about Northern Illinois
The Football Digest 2002 All-America team was selected by staff writer Joe Donatelli.
"That's certainly great news," said Huskie head coach Joe Novak. "The best news is that both are back this fall. So all of us can look for bigger and better things from both Michael and Danny. I'll say this: You would have to look around the country to find a more productive one-two punch. It's one thing to have talent and another to be so productive as they both were last season."
Novak certainly is correct on that statement since the Turner-Sheldon duo combined for 3,826 all-purpose yards---the combination of individual rushing, receiving, punt, kickoff, and interception yards---last season when Northern Illinois finished 8-4 overall and shared its second consecutive Mid-American Conference West Division title.
During 2002, the six-foot, 223-pound Turner finished second in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1-A ranks in rushing (159.6 yards-per-game average) and No. 2 in all-purpose yardage (190.3 ypg. average) as a junior. Of course, "The Burner"---with a single-season MAC record 1,915 yards---will be the nation's top returning major-college rusher in 2003. The 5-11, 175-pound Sheldon, who led the country in punt returns with a 22.7 yards-per-return average last fall as a sophomore---also wound up at No. 36 in NCAA all-purpose yards (128.5 ypg.).
To date in the 2002 postseason, Turner put his name on five different All-America units and Sheldon did the same three times. In addition to the Football Digest honors, "The Burner" made Third-Team All-America via The Sporting News and Collegefootballnews.com, Joel Buchsbaum Pro Football Weekly All-America, plus CNN-Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-America. Previously, Sheldon placed his name on the Collegefootballnews.com Second-Team All-America and the CNN-Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-America units.
For Northern Illinois, Turner and Sheldon represent the first multiple, single-season All-America grid selections since 2000 when offensive tackle Ryan Diem earned Third-Team honors and wide receiver Justin McCareins won Honorable Mention accolades from the Football News for coach Novak. In 1993, five Huskie performers---tailback LeShon Johnson (who made unanimous First-Team All-America that year), linebacker Gerald Nickelberry, offensive guard Tim O'Brien, tight end Raymond Roberts, and placekicker Brian Steger---made at least one All-America unit for head coach Charlie Sadler.