While the NFL released Thursday the list of a record 65 underclassmen who will make themselves available for the April draft, the attrition to the professional ranks is not yet complete.
In a press release, New Mexico State announced that running back Kenny Turner has declared himself eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft. Turner had one year of eligibility remaining but decided to leave it on the table for a shot at the NFL.
“First of all I would like to thank Coach [DeWayne] Walker, Dr. Boston and the NM State administration for giving me the opportunity to play Division I football at New Mexico State,” Turner said. “Coming out of junior college I had a few other offers to play Division I football, but after I visited New Mexico State I felt that it was home and I felt that it was the right decision for me. This was a very difficult decision I had to make but when it came down to it I was going to be 27 years old, and in the NFL and at the running back position, age is a factor. So I need to make the jump from college to the NFL. Again, I appreciate all the support and I enjoyed my time as an Aggie.”
The announcement is yet another step in Turner’s remarkable journey that’s a decade in the making, one that could’ve included (more) prison bars or a coffin but is instead headed in the direction of a career at the next level.
Turner began his college playing career at the junior college level in 2009 — his 2008 season was erased by a knee injury — before transferring to NMSU in 2010. This past season, he led the Aggies in rushing with 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns. Additionally, he was second on the team in receptions (46) and receiving yards (514).
How he got to the point of being a productive player at the 1-A level, however, is a story of redemption and taking full advantage of a second chance.
In July of 2002, a 16-year-old Turner shot and wounded two individuals outside of an Orlando, Fla., gas station following a heated verbal altercation. He was sentenced to five years in prison after being tried as an adult, and was subsequently released in June of 2007.
The full story of how Turner got from that July day in Florida in 2002 to New Mexico eight years later can be read HERE, and I’d strongly suggest taking a look at it to get the full picture of the self-inflicted wounds — and singular poor decision — the back has thus far overcome.
As far as his most recent decision, his head coach intimated that Turner should remain with the Aggies for another season, but nonetheless expressed support for this next step in the process — as long as Turner returns to get a degree.
“I walked through this process with Kenny (Turner), explaining the pros and cons of declaring for the NFL, and at the end of the day it was his decision and we will support him in any way we can to help him fulfill his dream of being an NFL player,” Walker said in a statement. “He understands through this process that he must graduate and Kenny promised me that he would take care of that piece of it. There is life after football and he understands that as well. We hate to see him leave but I do understand his decision and we are going to support it and we want to make sure he graduates from college.”