Coming Back Stronger Than Ever

Headed into his sophomore season at Notre Dame, it seemed that Michael Turkovich's days were numbered in a football uniform. In the preseason of 2006, Turkovich suffered a dangerous neck injury in practice and had to be hospitalized. As the ambulance carted him off the field, the mood was morose, and football was the last thing in everyone's mind, except for one person —Turkovich.

It was in practice early on in the schedule, and he remembers that he received an awkward hit during a passing play in a drill.

"It was my sophomore year," Michael Turkovich said. "I had a little scare, a little stinger, but everything is better and everything about that is in the past. I'm doing a lot better."

Did it ever weigh on the shoulders of the Bedford, Pa. native? Like a true competitor, he didn't think twice about coming back.

"I don't think so," Turkovich said. "No because I said to myself, ‘hey, that's a freak thing. The chances of that happening aren't that good,' so if you play scared of that happening, something like that might actually happen. You've got to play with your head up and you can't be afraid of stuff like that."

Although he was able to overcome the setback, at the time, it was a frightening ordeal to Turkovich. He appreciates the opportunity he had and grew from it, forcing him to play with more emotion.

"It was," he replied to the question. "Well you know when you have something like that happen, it makes you really realize that I only have so much time here to play, and it almost got cut short so you've got to start working a little harder and try and get back on the field."

He kept his word and did just that — recovering quickly and seeing action in nine regular season games in the 2006 campaign. Despite the injury, his parents, Robert and Susan Turkovich were not concerned at all about his determination to play after the incident.

"My parents didn't pressure me like that at all," he said. "They said, ‘do what you want to do,' and I'm here for football, so I got out there to fight."

The Irish coaching staff couldn't be any happier that he decided to brave through the experience and fight his way back onto the field. Rather than playing at his left guard spot, he is now slated as the top left tackle — a position that has plagued Notre Dame for some time now.

"He was another guy that had originally been a tackle, then played guard, then was in at tackle," head coach Charlie Weis said. "Going into camp honestly I wasn't so positive that he was going to win the job, and he won it convincingly." To show that he could do that, he improved his overall pass blocking that complimented his mauler, run-blocking style.

"He did everything well," Weis said. "He showed that he could pass-block. He showed that he could block at the point of attack. He showed that he wasn't a liability when we put him on an island; that we didn't have to chip help every time that he was over there and that's a concern with a left tackle and the blind side of the quarterback. Hey, you can chip help on the blind side of the quarterback all day, but if you can get where the tackle can play in the game and be able to handle the position, it lets you get more guys out on the pattern which is always advantageous."

Weis isn't the only one along the coaching staff that has noticed either. Offensive line coach, John Latina saw this coming as soon as his confidence set in.

"He showed a lot of improvement," Latina said. "He showed a lot of consistency. He improved greatly in pass protection, and always a critical thing for a left tackle when your quarterback is right-handed and the blindside of the quarterback. He's shown physical play at the point of attack, so he's played really consistent for us and put himself in a good position."

The primary reason that Turkovich claimed the spot was this development as a pass blocker, which Latina could not stress enough.

"… I'd agree that he's a physical run blocker, but he really has improved his pass protection," Latina said. "And I think that it's a matter of confidence, and technique and years of experience of being in the system, so I think it's all come together for him and he had a really good camp for us."

Turkovich's progress as a pass blocker is thanks to one thing, in his opinion — confidence.

"… As far as pass blocking, if that's what coach said, I would say, it just has to do with confidence," Turkovich said. "It just has to do with confidence. I have confidence in my hands and in my feet. I keep my feet moving, I keep my position, where I need to be on the right angles, I feel like I can make the block. Before I didn't have that confidence and I guess just working on it on the off-season and having all the guys around me, I can trust them so I know what they're doing and I think it's really helped."

As a result, Latina has seen that Turkovich has responded well to being the top player at the position.

"Very good," he said. "I think he's been very positive, he's been very good and being consistent and he's been very good about trying to be a leader too, and I think that's a good thing. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now, so he feels good about where he is and that's allowed him to be a little bit more of a leader, because of his confidence."

Turkovich almost exactly mirrored his coach's statement about his confidence. According to him, that's the main reason why he's been able to excel at the position.

"It's been good," Turkovich said. "I feel like our line is really starting to gel, we're gaining our confidence. Our camp went well as an offense and if you can say that our offensive line is gelling that's really important because once you have that, your offense really opens up, because you're making plays and opening holes."

Just because the Irish have struggled at the position doesn't mean that Turkovich is ready to give into the pressure. He has the ability to separate that from what he is supposed to do and perform.

"You have to put that aside and just focus on what you're doing," he said. "The task at hand on every play, you have to take it one play at a time. You can't let stuff like that, I guess. If you think about that, you don't think about your assignments, you're not thinking about your notes and schemes or what you're trying to do to accomplish the play." Top Stories