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February 19, 2004
NORTHERN ILLINOIS TAILBACK MICHAEL 'THE BURNER' TURNER TESTS WARES AT 2004 NFL COMBINE IN INDY
DeKALB, IL --- The next chapter in the adventures of former Northern Illinois University tailback Michael "The Burner" Turner has begun at the 2004 National Football League Combine at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
"The Burner" will be tested in more ways than one. The six-foot, 232-pound Turner is one of approximately 335 collegiate prospects and 30 runningbacks to be run through a battery of medical, psychological, and physical tests before an exclusive audience of scouts, coaches, and general managers from all 32 NFL franchises. With the upcoming NFL Draft in two months, the pros will use this seven-day period (February 18-24) to find out everything possible about Turner, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Chris Perry, Larry Fitzgerald, Darius Watts, Robert Gallery, Josh Scobee, etc. Considering the big-league salaries for high draft picks, what you see is what you get.
"There's a lot of concern, a lot of questions about him (Turner)," said Huskie head coach Joe Novak. "Everyone has a question. They (NFL) see some things they like, they see some things they're concerned about."
A two-time All-America selection and semifinalist for the prestigious Doak Walker National Runningback Award, Turner (North Chicago) rushed for 1,915 yards as a junior (2002) and 1,648 more as a senior (2003), plus finished No. 13 on the all-time National Collegiate Athletic Association major-college rushing list with 4,941 career yards. Turner wound up No. 2 in NCAA rushing the last two seasons. His best stat? It might be only losing two fumbles in his final 508 carries.
Obviously, there are questions about "The Burner" who played at what the NFL moguls call "a mid-level major program." Someone with Turner's size and athleticism intrigues the next level, particularly with a :04.41 timing in the 40. Former Dallas Cowboys' GM Gil Brandt rated Turner No. 9 on his pre-Combine runningbacks list last week.
"Michael was timed last spring by an NFL scout with the :04.41 in the 40," Novak said. "There is no doubt that was accurate. Is that timing accurate now? He's a little bigger. They (NFL) all feel like he lost some speed. He's so big and so strong, he's a guy that's fast when he gets going. He's fast in the second 50 yards. He can learn pass blocking and he's big enough to protect the pocket passer. This is a very important time for Michael. It's great exposure for him. That's where he belongs---among the best seniors or draft-eligible players in the country."
Some of the top RB competition in Indy includes Tatum Bell of Oklahoma State, Rae Carthon of Florida, Maurice Clarett of Ohio State, Cedric Cobbs of Arkansas, Greg Jones of Florida State, Steven Jackson of Oregon State, Julius Jones of Notre Dame, Kevin Jones of Virginia Tech, Perry, and Quincy Wilson of West Virginia.
The combine tests the prospects in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuffle, three cone drills, 60-yard shuffle, position specific drills, and the Wonderlic (intelligence) test.
Turner is the first Northern Illinois performer invited to the NFL Combine since offensive tackle Ryan Diem and wide receiver Justin McCareins in 2001. Diem and McCareins both went in the fourth round of the NFL draft that spring and were selected by the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, respectively.
"The Burner" is also one of seven Mid-American Conference players undergoing the rigors of the combine. The other MAC products include Roethlisberger, Watts, Miami (OH) offensive guard Jacob Bell, Western Michigan defensive end Jason Babin, Marshall wide receiver Josh Davis, and Bowling Green State quarterback Josh Harris.
This year's NFL Draft is scheduled for April 24-25 in New York
Novak could have as many as eight NFL draft or free agent types from his 2003 Huskie seniors---including placekicker Steve Azar (Colorado Springs, CO / Highlands Ranch), cornerback Randee Drew (Milwaukee, WI / Glendale Nicolet), linebacker Nick Duffy (Wheaton / Warrenville South), wide receiver P. J. Fleck (Sugar Grove / Maple Park Kaneland), defensive end Jason Frank (Lakeville, MN / Senior), center Todd Ghilani (Elkhorn, WI / Area), strong safety Akil Grant (Kankakee), and Turner. Azar, Drew, Ghilani, Grant, and Turner all played in postseason national all-star games. For the record, the 1983 Northern Illinois Cal Bowl team ultimately produced 19 pro football players and seven NFL draft picks.
(For further information, please contact Mike Korcek)