Football is more than a game, it is a business

The San Diego Chargers recently wrapped up their first minicamp. For most rookies, it is the first opportunity to get back to playing the game they love. But now, it is more than just a game, but a business. Michael Turner was the 154th overall selection in the 2004 draft, and was happy to get beyond the chaos of the draft and begin his profession.<br><br>"I was just happy to get back into playing. It was a long process, with the draft and everything. I'm just happy back playing football."

Coming to a team that has gotten about as much respect, as Rodney Dangerfield over the past few years is nothing new to Michael Turner. Turner grew up in the Chicago area and received little attention from big time programs coming out of high school.

"Northern (Northern Illinois University) was pretty much the only school to offer, and that's about it," said Turner. "I had interests from small schools."

As soon as Turner got to NIU, division one coaches across the country where kicking themselves for overlooking him. He led all freshmen in the NCAA with 200 rushing attempts and played in every game. Three and half short years later, Turner is the 13th leading rusher in NCAA history with 4,941 career yards.

When asked about the little recognition he received from high school, Turner nonchalantly responds with a giggle, "Well, everything happens for a reason."

Turner is the type to let his play on the football field do the talking for him. He did not get caught up in the national exposure, or lack there of, he received at Northern Illinois, and is not giving the past criticisms of the Charger organization a second thought.

"I do not pay attention to exposure or things like that; I just want to play football," Turner admits.

Still, how could the drama of the number one pick, and the dominating story in the draft, not play on Turner's mind, especially when he was drafted by one of the teams involved?

Turner is too focused on what he can bring to the organization, and not whether a player got chosen by a team he wanted to play for. "I wasn't Eli, so I did not pay any attention to it."

Turner is a very gifted athlete who commands an intimidating presence on the football field. He has an imposing 230lbs frame and legitimate 4.4 speed.

"I am more like 238lbs now," Turner was quick to correct.

Turner has a learning curve that he will inevitably go through. Things, though, are certainly off to a good start. He has already started learning new techniques about his chosen profession.

"I was taught new things (at camp) about playing down, route running; things like that. The sort of stuff I wasn't doing at Northern. San Diego throws the ball to the backs a lot. That's something I got to get used to."

In addition, Turner has not only impressed his teammates with his skills, but also talked about the camaraderie that has begun to build, "We all got along fine. We all joked around and had a great time there. We are just starting to become teammates."

When talking with Turner, one glaring question stuck. Turner helped put Northern Illinois on the map, but now his role for the Chargers will be much different. He is not expected to takeover the job from an aging running back, but rather offer support to a player that has yet to hit his prime in LaDainian Tomlinson.

"I was not always the main guy at Northern, you know," Turner said. "I've been in this role before, and I am comfortable with it."

It is important to note, that it took Turner two years to become the feature back at Northern Illinois, which makes his overall accomplishments that much more impressive.

Accepting one's position on a team is a concept that Turner is very familiar with. If the Chargers do well this season, Turner will be given an opportunity to shine. But since he will not be carrying the load, it will be in such a way that will not garner him much attention. Turner's main goals, however, are not to make thirty-one other organizations second guess themselves for passing on him numerous times, like many programs were doing after his freshman year in college. Turner has more of a business-minded approach. He just wants to play football, and aid in the Chargers' success anyway the organization sees fit.

"I just want to win games and I am willing to do whatever it takes to win games, that's my main focus," Turner said.

Many say the NFL is more than "the game of football", but the "business of football". For Michael Turner, that statement could not be any truer. For the past two years, Turner has been one of the best at what he does. But the realm in which he has excelled was only a game. Now, there is much more at stake. This notion does not frighten him in the least though:

"I love competition. I love to compete. So, the only thing I can control is what I do on the football field."

Despite already having one of the best running backs in football, there is no doubt one of the main reasons AJ and company drafted Turner was because he is all about business; that is the business of winning.

Byran Martin can be reached at

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