Turner was confident. Some would even maybe call him cocky.
He was young. Maybe even a little immature.
A four-star recruit out of the state of Texas, it looked like the freshman was destined for great things in Lincoln.
Four years later, Turner’s now man. Humbled. A father. A graduate. Fighting to leave his mark.
A senior wide receiver entering the 2014 season, Turner’s year was cut short – extremely short.
Against McNeese State in the second game of the year, Turner tore his Achilles tendon. Not the death sentence it was a couple decades ago, but something that wouldn’t exactly be easy to come back from.
“When it happened, I was really depressed,” said Turner. “I was going to rehab, but was telling myself that I don’t even have the passion to play football anymore.”
At times, Turner thought maybe he needed to start a new chapter in his life – to forget about football. After all, he already had his criminal justice degree.
Turner started to pray about the situation. He started talking to friends, family, and his girlfriend. All of their messages were the same – he needed to come back. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise?
Turner’s in a better place right now. Last week he was granted a fifth year by the NCAA. This week, he’s practicing with his teammates, even if it’s on a limited basis.
“I feel like I’m 95 percent. They feel like I’m 75 percent,” said Turner, who says new wide receiver coach Keith Williams is limiting his work. “I want to do more, but he feels that if it’s something that’s going to hurt my leg, don’t do it. I want to go. I want to get better. I want to see what I can do.
“I feel like new coaches, new offense, everyone is trying to make a name for themselves. It starts this spring.” - Jamal Turner
It’s not just his Achilles tendon that’s the problem. Turner also needed one of his knees scoped before the start of spring practice. Not a major setback, but a setback.
“I wake up days and think, my back hurts, my Achiles hurts, my knee hurts, why am I doing this?” said Turner. “I think about my team, my coaches, my friends and my family. It keeps me going, but it’s really hard.”
A graduate, Turner has an easy workload this spring and will in the fall. Maybe the extra time will make things slow down a bit.
“I feel like I just got here,” said Turner, who shares a message with guys like Avery Anderson, Eric Lee, Aaron Williams, and Dedrick Young. All four were early enrollees this spring. “I tell them that I remember being in your shoes. It happens just (snap of the fingers) like that.”
In 36 games over his career, Turner has 64 catches for 799 yards and four touchdowns.