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December 12, 2003
NORTHERN ILLINOIS TB MICHAEL TURNER MAKES FOUR ALL-AMERICA UNITS, PK STEVE AZAR DOES ONE
DeKALB, IL --- Not a bad stretch for "The Burner", eh? You bet. Northern Illinois University senior tailback Michael Turner just went four-for-four this week.
The Huskies' all-time career rusher was selected to his second, third, and fourth All-America squads in four days---making (2) Honorable Mention Rivals.com All-America, (3) Second-Team CNN-Sports Illustrated.com All-America, and (4) Honorable Mention Collegefootballnews.com All-America---after winning (1) Second-Team All-America honors earlier this week from The Sporting News. "The Burner" made five "major All-America units as a junior in 2002.
In addition, Northern Illinois senior placekicker Steve Azar was named All-America for the second time---garnering Honorable Mention status from Collegefootballnews.com. In 2001, he made Honorable Mention Football News All-America.
"To be honest, Michael deserves this type of national recognition and, probably, a little more," said Northern Illinois head football coach Joe Novak. "You're preaching to the choir. He had a tremendous career here, particularly the last two seasons when he ran for 3,500-plus yards. All this year, we were playing against defenses with eight or nine men in the box and that's the ultimate tribute to Michael's running abilities and his reputation. People were geared to stop him first. To his credit, Michael still got his yardage and we won 10 ball games. What more can a coach ask? Steve Azar was just as productive as Michael as a placekicker. What great career numbers Steve generated for us the last four years."
The 5-foot-10, 232-pound Turner (North Chicago) was the lone Mid-American Conference representative on the 63-player 2003 Rivals.com All-America unit this season. Runningbacks Darren Sproles of Kansas State and Chris Perry of Michigan won First-Team All-America honors while Kevin Jones of Virginia Tech and Derrick Knight of Boston College were cited on the Rivals.com Honorable Mention list with "The Burner."
Sproles and Perry earned First-Team All-America status from CNN-Sports Illustrated.com, followed by Jones and Turner as Second-Team All-America picks. "The Burner" and fellow Second-Team All-America defensive end Jason Babin from Western Michigan were the only Mid-Am performers among the 2003 CNN-SI.com top 60 players. Four MAC stars were Honorable Mention All-America picks---Miami (OH) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and kick return specialist Ryne Robinson, Bowling Green State defensive back Janssen Patton, plus Central Florida punter Matt Prater.
On the 2003 Collegefootballnews.com All-America squad, Perry and Sproles were named on the first-team, followed by DonTrell Moore of New Mexico State and Marion Barber III of Minnesota on the second-team, Cedric Benson of Texas and Jones on the third-team, plus Turner, Carnell Williams of Auburn, DeAngelo Williams of Memphis, and Steven Jackson of Oregon State on the honorable mention unit.
Six other Mid-Am standouts made the Collegefootballnews.com All-America list, topped by WMU's Babin on the second unit. BGSU's Patton and UCF's Prater were on the third team. Azar, Roethlisberger, and BeeGee quarterback Josh Harris were tabbed in the honorable mention category. Four loop players were ranked among Collegefootballnews.com's "100 Best Players of 2003"---Roethlisberger at No. 7 nationally, Harris at No. 26, Babin at No. 29, and "The Burner" at No. 39.
With his 4,941 career rushing yards during 2000-03, Turner wound up No. 1 on the Northern Illinois all-time ground-gaining list, No. 2 all-time in Mid-Am annals, and No. 13 in major-college football history. "The Burner" set numerous school records---including 21 career 100-yard rushing performances and nine MAC Player of the Week citations. In 2003, Turner repeated as a First-Team All-Mid-Am pick via the loop's head coaches and finished runner-up in the league's Offensive Player of the Year and Vern Smith Leadership Award balloting for the second season in a row. Turner was also a two-time Doak Walker National Runningback Award semifinalist (2002, 2003).
In addition to winning his second Mid-Am Special Teams Player of the Year award this month, Azar (Colorado Springs, CO / Highlands Ranch) became NIU's first four-time All-MAC gridiron performer (first-team in both 2001 and 2003, second-team in 2002, and honorable mention in 2000). The 5-7, 195-pound soccer-style kicker set league records for career kick-scoring points (370) and field goals (73) and holds at least 15 Northern Illinois major records. Azar was a two-time semi-finalist for the Lou Groza National Placekicker Award (2001, 2003) and posted an NIU-record 104 kick-scoring points this fall.
(For further information, please contact Mike Korcek)