It’s not always easy, but the 2015 Norwalk graduate has plenty of opportunities ahead of him as a running back at Eastern Michigan University.
Turner redshirted in the 2015 season, but saw opportunities for 77 rushes for 417 yards and four touchdowns in 2016.
However, with standout Shaq Vann back after missing most of last season, along with junior Ian Eriksen — touches are by committee in the EMU backfield and tough to come by.
In Saturday’s 20-15 loss at the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl, Turner got just one carry, and was met by four blue jerseys almost instantly and thrown for a 4-yard loss with just under six minutes left in the second quarter.
He continued to rotate in with the other backs, but had just the one rush attempt. For the season, he has 16 attempts (56 yards) in five games.
“There’s a lot of backs here, man,” Turner said. “I’m just waiting on my opportunity. They will put me in there when they see fit, and I’m just going to try and make the most of it. Shaq, Ian and Blake (Banham) all do a great job, and our runnings back Coach (Jay) Peterson does a great job of utilizing us through our talents.
“I’m just going to do what I do when I’m able to get in there, and hopefully that will carry on through the rest of the season,” he added.
At Eastern, Turner has been part of a huge turnaround under head coach Chris Creighton.
The Eagles were in the midst of 20 straight losing seasons when he arrived, playing in front of sparse crowds in a small city.
As the running back watched during his redshirt season, the Eagles went 1-11 — capping a four-year stretch that resulted in a 7-41 record. In fact, just under two years ago, the EMU faculty union and student government released a report calling for the school to drop football and switch conferences.
But last season, the Eagles went 7-6, falling to Old Dominion in the Bahamas Bowl in one of the more stunning one-year turnarounds in recent FBS history.
The Eagles’ only other bowl appearance had came in the former California Bowl — now the Las Vegas Bowl — in 1987, a 30-27 win over San Jose State.
And though the Eagles are off to a 2-3 start this season, a closer look shows they had a chance to win all three setbacks. Eastern Michigan was coming off losses vs. Ohio (27-20) and Kentucky (24-20) — and had a game-tying two-point conversion pass overturned on a replay review in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss at MAC West favorite Toledo (4-1).
In fact, the Rockets were 14.5-point favorites on Saturday — and EMU had the ball at the Toledo 37 down five points with under a minute remaining.
“I think we had a great winter together. Knowing we can go to a bowl game, it really brought everyone together and raised the focus and intensity in the offseason,” Turner said. “Our goal is to get back to a bowl game and win, and we still believe we can do that.
“We feel like we’ve played well enough to win every single game, but these last three games we’ve come up a little short,” he added. “But that doesn’t stop us from what we want to do. Those goals are still in front of us. We just fell short today.”
At Norwalk, Turner solidified himself as a three-star recruit and one of the best players in Ohio. The Reflector area’s all-time rushing leader, Turner holds eight program records, including single-game yards (327), single-season yards (2,795), single-season TDs (32) and points (198), career yards (5,682), career TDs (79), career rush attempts (567) and career points (508).
In 2014, he ran for 2,795 yards and 32 TDs as the Truckers went 10-0 for the first time in program history. It resulted in the program’s third-ever Northern Ohio League title, and the first in 39 seasons.
The Truckers also hosted a playoff game for the first time ever, and the 42-34 win over Perkins in the first round was the first playoff win in 41 seasons. Turner was also a finalist for the Associated Press Mr. Football award while earning Div. III All-Ohio Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2014.
The year prior, he was also a starter on the Div. II state championship basketball team, scoring the final points and grabbing the final rebound in the title game win vs. Columbus Watterson.
And while it may not be an ideal number of carries now, Turner is more than happy to be in Ypsilanti, and has another two-plus seasons remaining.
“I’m very happy, there’s some great relationships I’ve been able to form here,” he said. “We all believe in what Coach Creighton is doing here and we’re all excited for what’s to come. He does a great job of preparing us, and we’re lucky to have him and will keep doing what we do.”