From prison to the draft: leading rusher leaving NMSU for NFL

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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.”

Florida’s statement on Jim McElwain’s death-threat claim is interesting, to say the least

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Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something.  Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.

Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season,  Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least.  So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.

The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats.  Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.

OK then.

Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.