KANSAS CITY, Mo. – His path to the NFL began as an overlooked player out of Mounds View High School in Arden Hill, Minn., to a decorated college career at North Dakota State University.
A two-time consensus All-American, offensive lineman Billy Turner thrived as a member of the Bison’s three FCS national championship teams.
But for all the collegiate success, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman won’t forget how his journey began and where he hopes it goes.
“I’ve always kind of been that guy that for some reason had something to prove,” Turner said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Coming out of high school, I got under recruited.
“Making this next step and coming from a smaller school, guys want to see me against bigger opponents. I have that question mark above my head. I’ve had that chip on my shoulder and I played that way, and I think that’s going to continue to propel me throughout my career.”
With the Combine in the rear view mirror, Turner took a moment Tuesday to reflect on the months since the 2013 football season ended.
“Being noticed and able to get the recognition to get invited to the Senior Bowl and Combine was probably the best part of it,” Turner said in a phone interview. “So I was just taking in the entire atmosphere and the whole experience of getting there.”
Of course, Turner had some insight on what to expect in Indianapolis.
His father, Maurice, spent four years in the NFL as a running back. Turner’s brother is Washington Redskins linebacker Bryan Kehl, who spent a few weeks with the Chiefs in 2012.
Meanwhile, Turner’s name has been linked in recent months to the Chiefs.
In addition to reportedly speaking to the Chiefs at the Senior Bowl, Turner said last week in Indianapolis the Chiefs and Green Bay Packers were among the teams he spoke to at the Combine.
But during Tuesday’s phone interview, Turner clarified those comments. He cited the sensitive nature of formal interviews, a selective process where teams choose 60 players for the 15-minute sit-downs in accordance with league rules.
“I talked to almost every team in informal interviews,” Turner said. “That was what I was referring to with the Chiefs and the Packers.
“I talked to almost all 32 teams in informal interviews, getting a chance to talk to them and offensive line coaches. I was told that I’m not supposed to let anyone know as far as the teams I did talk to in the formal setting.”
Nevertheless, it makes sense the Chiefs and Turner spoke regardless of setting.
Turner, a projected second- or third-round draft pick by CBBSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com, expects to shift from offensive tackle to guard in the NFL.
The Chiefs are dealing with potential holes if left tackle Branden Albert and guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah become unrestricted free agents on March 11.
Turner’s flexibility could play a role in how teams view his draft value, according to CBSSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com draft analyst Dane Brugler.
“In the second or third round, obviously a lot of teams are going to shop for the offensive line,” Brugler said during a Tuesday evening phone interview. “It’s hard to say one team, but you can definitely include the Chiefs as a team that could look at him. That versatility is key.”
Indeed, the importance of having an interchangeable offensive lineman was a point Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson made during a Jan. 1 media session with Chiefs media members.
“You have to have those guys,” Pederson said. “You have to have those swing tackles and guards that can play center.”
For now, Turner has already prepared mentally for a position change.
“A lot of scouts have also told me that moving to guard is a definite possibility for me at the next level,” Turner said. “And my versatility along the offensive line in the NFL, they also said that was big.
“I’m able to play guard, tackle and center, so I think that’s going to be another big thing that teams are going to be impressed with and look at when they’re looking to draft me, hopefully.”
Turner said last week he always wanted to play inside because of the man-on-man physical battle between the lineman and defender in a confined space.
He reinforced that desire Tuesday by explaining his run-blocking mentality.
“Definitely in the run game I’m more of a mauler,” Turner said. “I need to work on some of my technique as far as in my pass set, but as far as run blocking I think I have the technique down pretty well. I’m one of those guys that likes to maul people out of the way.”
“He has the on-field demeanor and the mean attitude to really do damage in the NFL,” Brugler said. “He can play tackle if needed, but he’s best suited inside.”
In the meantime, Turner’s attention shifts to his Pro Day workout on March 12.
Turner felt he produced good numbers in Indianapolis where he ran a 5.16 40-yard dash, produced 25 bench-press repetitions, recorded a 28-inch vertical jump and 108 inches in the broad jump, and clocked 7.92 in the 3-Cone Drill and 4.71 in the 20-yard shuttle run.
While Turner said he’s positive he could improve the run times, his focus in the coming weeks is clear when considering the potential position change.
“A lot of scouts look at specific things, but they look at the position drills a lot as well,” he said. “The plan right now is to go into my Pro Day just working on all the position drills.”
There will be anxious weeks leading to May’s NFL Draft.
But given his determination to prove he belongs, Turner looks forward to the moment the hard work pays off – potentially hearing his name on draft day.
“I’m going to be pretty excited to finally figure out what city I’m going to be able to call home for hopefully the next few years of my life, going out to start that new chapter,” Turner said. “But I’m definitely going to be a happy, excited guy to finally have that mark checked off my page as far as my dreams and ambitions in life.”