Utah State football: Robert Turbin marking off calendar, counting down days to return

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 31 2011 11:07 p.m. MDT

LOGAN ±— By the time he takes the field for Utah State’s season opening game against Auburn on Saturday, it will have been 644 days since Robert Turbin last took the field in an Aggie uniform.

It will have been 644 days since the then-sophomore running back put together arguably the best game of his collegiate career, gaining 183 total yards en route to a five-touchdown performance in leading USU to its biggest win of the 2009 season on the road over a bowl-bound Idaho team.

It will have been 644 days, but who’s counting? The answer is Turbin himself.

“I’ve got a calendar in my room, and I just cross out every day, with the next day closer to being able to play the game that I had one time thought I lost,” Turbin said.

Following a sophomore season in 2009 where he rushed for 1,296 yards, gained another 418 yards through the air and reached the end zone 18 times total, Turbin’s 2010 season fell victim to what he personally describes as a freak injury that resulted in a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) for the junior running back. With football out of the picture for a year, Turbin was faced with new challenges in rehabilitation of his injury, a temporary change of role for the USU football team and a changed perspective of what is important both in football and in life.

“It’s just been one of those things where you learn a lot from it,” Turbin said. “Sometimes life is going to hit you right in the mouth.”

Learning from it is exactly what Turbin did. Facing a lengthy rehab process and unable to make an immediate impact on the field, head coach Gary Andersen approached Turbin about trading in his shoulder pads for a headset in 2010 to make his impact felt from the sidelines. Ask Andersen what aspect developed most during that brief coaching tenure, and he’ll tell you that Turbin developed a much stronger sense of consistent leadership.

“Last when he was basically a student coach, I think he really learned how to be a consistent leader and really helped his teammates look at him as a true leader day in and day out. I don’t think you can make leaders. I think leaders are truly born, but I think you can educate young men that have an opportunity to be leaders and Robert has done a nice job in getting involved with that,” Andersen said.

Turbin credits his coaching stint for helping him see the game in a different perspective than he’d ever seen before. “Sometimes as a player you don’t always understand what coaches are seeing,” Turbin said. “I asked a lot of questions, and I was able to wear the headset and listen, and kind of learn some schemes.”

Turbin also says he learned more about film in the last year than he’d ever known before.

“My preparation, I believe, will be better because of it,” Turbin said. “I know certain things to look for that I didn’t look at before just as a player, and I think it will help me overall so hopefully it turns into great success.”

On top of coaching though, which Turbin says he’d prefer not to have to do again until after retirement, he was still faced with the tall task of being a running back on the mend from a major knee injury. Just getting back to the caliber of player that he was as a sophomore when he earned second-team all-Western Athletic Conference honors wasn’t enough for Turbin though. He has bigger plans than that, and to get his knee to where it needed to be to make those plans a reality, the rehabilitation process brought with it some high standards set for Turbin by the team’s head strength and conditioning coach, Evan Simon, and physical therapist, Lori Olson.

“You never want to be what you were. I always worked to get better than what I used to be,” Turbin said. “They pushed me a little harder so that I’d be better.”

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