Bloomington – Nick Turner owes a big thank you to Darius Willis and a handful of his high school teammates.
A standout football player and sprinter from Southport (Ind.) H.S., Turner opted to skip his junior football season so he could focus his attention on a blossoming career in track. After a solid summer with the Indy Storm USA Track and Field team, Turner was thinking about passing on football again in the fall before Willis and some teammates convinced him to reconsider.
"I talked to Darius and he said he was going to fight me if I didn't play," joked Turner.
A former high school star at Franklin Central, Willis was well aware of Turner's abilities as a running back from his prep days. But it was Turner's teammates that finally convinced him to go out for football as a senior. Three weeks before the start of training camp, Turner started fielding calls from teammates who knew their prospects for a successful season were much better if Turner was out there with them.
"They all called and said, ‘hey, we need you,'" Turner said. "I promised them my freshman year that I wouldn't let them down, and I kept my promise."
His team reaped the rewards. Led by Turner, Southport won its first-ever Conference Indiana championship with a perfect 7-0 record and finished 9-2 overall. Turner, meanwhile, earned All-State honors after rushing for a school-record 2,061 yards and 25 touchdowns on 256 carries (8.1 per carry).
The decision is still paying off for Turner. On Friday, the talented running back finalized plans with the Indiana coaching staff to sign a letter of intent to play football at IU beginning in the fall.
Turner becomes the 17th member of a 2009 recruiting that is shaping up as the best Indiana has put together in recent memory. He's also the only running back that IU is expected to sign as well.
Turner made his official visit to IU two weeks ago and was hosted by Willis. By the time he left the Bloomington campus on Sunday his decision had pretty well been made.
"When I got there I met with the IU coaches at Memorial Stadium, and after that the visit just started to get better and better and better until the time I had to leave," Turner said.
Thanks to his decision to not play football as a junior, very few programs had Turner on their recruiting radar this season. Indiana State had offered a scholarship, and he was also getting pursued by Division III powerhouse Mount Union (Ohio) College, which has won 10 Division III titles in the last 16 years. But neither program could offer nearly as much as Indiana could.
"It's a true blessing to be looked at like this," said Turner. "I never dreamed that I'd actually make it anywhere in football."
He probably wouldn't have if it hadn't been for the efforts of Willis and high school teammates such as Shawn Gibson, Julian Walker and Doug Petty, who wouldn't take no for an answer.
"I'm really glad I came back," Turner said. "Really glad."
Decision To Return Pays Off for Latest Commit
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