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December 24, 2002
NORTHERN ILLINOIS TAILBACK MICHAEL TURNER NAMED THIRD-TEAM ALL-AMERICA BY THE SPORTING NEWS
DeKALB, IL --- Santa Claus arrived a day early for Northern Illinois University junior tailback Michael Turner.
The six-foot, 223-pound Turner probably received his most significant postseason football honor Tuesday (December 24) by being named to The Sporting News Third-Team 2002 All-america squad. The announcement was made by Tom Dienhart of The Sporting News.
"That is truly great," said Huskie head football coach Joe Novak after hearing the news. "With no offense intended to any other publication or rating service, The Sporting News is one of the great publications in sports and has been for years and years. Michael is starting to get that national recognition. People are finding out that he's something special.
"Everybody knows that The Sporting News All-America team is one of the major ones. That's really impressive. We truly appreciate the national notoriety," Novak added. "What is really amazing is that Michael got this far without all the preseason hype. Remember, Thomas Hammock was our featured back before his heart problem. Now Michael can go into next year as one of the top returning tailbacks is the country and be a true preseason All-America in 2003."
Willis McGahee of Miami (FL) and Larry Johnson of Penn State made TSN First-Team All-America at runningback, followed by Avon Cobourne of West VIrginia and Chris Brown of Colorado on the second unit, Turner and Quentin Griffin of Oklahoma on the third team, plus Steven Jackson of Oregon State and Brock Forsey of Boise State on the fourth.
Turner (North Chicago), the nation's No. 2 major-college rusher this year with a Mid-American Conference single-season record 1,915 yards, represented the top Mid-Am pick on The Sporting News 2002 All-America units. Marshall offensive tackle Steve Sciullo and Western Michigan defensive end Jason Babin both made TSN Fourth-Team All-America.
To date this fall, the man known as "The Burner" has put his name on four All-America units. The other honor units include Pete Fiutak's Collegefootballnews.com Third-Team All-America, Joel Buchsbaum's Pro Football Weekly All-America, and CNN-Sports Illustrated.com Honorable Mention All-America. A top-eight semifinalist for the prestigious Doak Walker National Runningback Award, Turner was named MAC Player of the Year by Collegefootballnews.com and finished runner-up behind Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich in the "official" loop balloting for league Offensive Player of the Year and the Mid-Am's Vern Smith Award. Turner also was a First-Team All-MAC selection this fall.
Compared to Northern Illinois All-Century tailback LeShon Johnson, who made unanimous First-Team All-America and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior in 1993, Turner is slightly ahead of "The Cowboy" at this juncture, honors-wise. In 1992, Johnson made Honorable Mention Football News and United Press International All-America after a 1,338-yard rushing campaign during his junior year.