Walker Signs Junior College All-American Running Back Kenny Turner

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - New Mexico State head football coach DeWayne Walker announced that running back Kenny Turner has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend NM State and play football for the Aggies beginning in the fall of 2010. Turner comes from Fullerton College, were he was a Junior College All-American and Southern California Football Association Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2009, helping his team to a 10-1 record.

“Kenny is a tremendous running back and athlete and possesses all the intangibles of a solid football player,” Walker said. “We feel Kenny is sincere and passionate about moving on with his life. One of the first things I noticed about this young man is how humble he is and how eager he is to make a positive contribution in our society."

Turner’s football dreams were put on hold back in 2002 at the age of 16 when he was arrested and convicted on a second-degree felony for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, which landed him in prison for the next five years. During his time in prison, Turner turned his life around, earning his GED while simultaneously becoming a licensed plumber and electrician.

After his release in 2007, Turner enrolled at Fullerton College. He started his collegiate football career this past season at Fullerton College. In just one season with the Hornets, Turner rushed for 1,513 yards on 236 carries, scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground in 2009. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and 126.1 yards rushing a game. He was also second on the team with 29 receptions for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Turner’s 18 touchdowns led the team and also helped him lead the team in scoring with 108 points on the season. Turner was also heavily involved in community outreach projects while at Fullerton College, including the Fullerton College Boys & Girls Club and the Kathleen E. Faley Games, a Special Olympics event.

“Kenny was a great individual and teammate during his time with us,” Fullerton College Head Football Coach Tim Byrnes said. “Kenny is a tremendous leader and will be the first one on the field and the last one off the field. As a football player you are going to get everything you ask of him. He will be able to run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield. He will also bring a little maturity to your football team because he is a little bit older. Kenny is a humble person and will take advantage of this second chance at life and the game of football.”

While on his official visit to NM State, Turner had a chance to meet with Athletics Director Dr. McKinley Boston and a committee of faculty and staff from campus (Julie Weber, Director of Housing and Residential Life; Jim Peach, Professor of Economics and International Business; Jack Thomas, NCAA Faculty Representative; Bobbie Green, Professor of Business; and David Keys, Professor of Criminal Justice) and all were impressed with Turner’s character.

“Coach Walker came to me and raised the question about recruiting Kenny Turner and on my own personal inclinations and values, instinctively I believe in second chances depending on the nature of the incident and in this case the crime,” Boston said. “I wanted to explore the possibility of having Kenny become an Aggie. After interviewing him with other colleagues from across campus it was clear to me that Kenny was a person of character, that there was a mistake made and that he paid a stiff penalty for a one-time mistake. I’m comfortable that he is a risk worth taking and confident that if given the opportunity he will take full advantage of it and continue to fulfill his dreams.”

“When we pulled together a cross section of faculty and staff from campus and we planned to interview Kenny during his visit, none of us had really talked to Coach Walker about him as an athlete,” Boston said. “We were all talking about him as a person and during the interview and the decision to support Kenny getting a scholarship, none of us knew what level of potential Kenny had as a football player. It was interesting that Coach Walker didn’t discuss his football ability to us at all and it wasn’t until after our decision to support Kenny that I said to coach, ‘I sure hope he can play,’ and come to find out he is a tremendous football player. But the driver in all this was giving a kid a second chance, not because he was a great football player but because we thought Kenny was deserving of the opportunity.”

Professor Keys said Kenny is a very pleasant young man who didn’t seem to be embittered by what had happened and found it remarkable that he has turned his life around in such a positive manner.
“After discussing this student with our Athletic Director, I support Dr. Boston’s decision to offer Kenny Turner a football scholarship. Our internal review process on this decision has been very thorough,” NM State President Barbara Couture said. “The Athletic Department is taking steps to help Kenny be a successful student-athlete at New Mexico State.”

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is a former high school teammate of Turner’s and says Turner is his best friend and has always been at his side.

“Kenny is my best friend and I have always been here for him and he knows I will continue to be there for him,” Johnson said. “Kenny has put in a lot of hard work and never gave up on his dreams of playing football and now someone is finally giving him that opportunity and I’m happy for him. He has turned his life around and now just wants to play football. Kenny is a very elusive running back, who can make plays, break tackles and make people miss.”

Walker was pleasantly surprised at the reaction from the current NM State football players on Turner after his official visit. Walker said several players came to him and asked when Turner was going to become an Aggie.

“I had several players come to me and ask about Kenny and when he was going to become a part of the team,” Walker said. “I thought Kenny really captured the interest of our current players. He is a student-athlete and a big priority of his is earning his business degree. As a football player, Kenny can help our football team. When we started this process we were very diligent in our approach in making sure that he was sincere about making a better life for himself. We thank Dr. Boston, President Couture and the committee that was involved in evaluating him. We are grateful that they saw what we are trying to do in developing young men and help Kenny enter a new chapter in his life.”