Long-Shot Bid Becomes Star Turn for Running Back
Written by Melvin Jones, special to Blackamericaweb.com Tuesday, 04 October 2011 10:43
Robert Turbin took the hand-off, turned the corner on the sidelines and went to work on BYU.
The star running back from Utah State eluded a defender. He juked a safety then he outran the secondary for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Through four games, Turbin is third in the country in rushing touchdowns. And in Logan Utah, he's reached the status of a folk-hero with his love for the Incredible Hulk, his engaging personality and his being the face of a resurgent USU program.
Turbin came to the Aggies in 2007 from Fremont Calif. He chose Utah State because Brent Guy, then the Aggies head coach, was the only coach to promise Turbin the shot at playing running back.
Four years later, Turbin is a star on a national level.
Before the start of the 2011 season, it had been 622 days since Robert Turbin actively engaged in his first love. Almost a lifetime, if you ask him.
He had last run on a football field on Nov. 28, 2009. He remembers the 52-49 shootout win against Idaho at the Kibbie Dome. He remembers the details of his performance: five total touchdowns, 113 rushing yards, 70 more yards through the air. He knows the number of days because he marks it on the calendar each and every day he wakes up. Then he reflects on how long it’s taken for him to get back. Then he goes out and works a little bit harder.
Turbin, of course, missed the entire 2010 season after suffering a major knee injury. It was a freak accident, really. There was no contact. It was a simple drill in winter workouts. It was a cut that he’s made thousands of times. And it tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
"It was hard," the junior said. "It was difficult because it let me know that football isn’t promised. It can be taken away from you at any time. And it was taken away from me. I appreciate the game much more than I used to."
Turbin appears to be back. The knee, he and his teammates say, is better than ever. The explosiveness, judging by the first week of Utah State’s practice, has returned. And on Friday, he was tackled for the first time in almost two years.
"I wouldn’t want to be the guy trying to tackle him in the open field," USU linebacker Tavaris McMillian said. "He’s going to be a problem this year."
Turbin still has the star power. He’s on the preseason Doak Walker watch list, one of 52 running backs across the nation to hold that honor. He’s tabbed as a preseason first team All-Western Athletic Conference pick, and, if he stays healthy, he will surely be the
engine that makes Utah State’s offense go.
But these are the good times. Not many saw what Turbin had to go through to get back. There were days when he felt good and days when he questioned what he was doing.
"You have a good day, maybe two good days, then don’t feel as good," Turbin said. "There were times when I questioned the whole thing. Is the rehab really working? Are we doing the right thing with the knee? What I had to do was stay the course."
He did so by immersing himself in the game. He served as a de facto assistant coach last season. He stayed on the sidelines. He went to meetings. He became one with the weight room, and he’s emerged with biceps befitting of his childhood hero, the Incredible Hulk.
When asked if his knee was fully functional again, he didn’t hesitate with his answer: Positively. Absolutely.
"We worked first on getting the swelling down and the range of motion back in the knee," said USU physical therapist Lori Olsen. "We worked on strengthening the knee. A lot of pool treadmills. He was an amazing athlete before the injury. I’ve never seen anyone work harder to get back to where he was. He just never took a break."
As a result, opponents may actually see a bigger and better Robert Turbin.