Nobody would have blamed Calvin Turner for opting for the NFL after an electric senior season for the University of Hawaii football team in 2020.
In his debut season for the Rainbow Warriors, the grad transfer from Jacksonville University racked up 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns in nine games as a running back, slot receiver, kick returner and wildcat quarterback. After generating pro buzz, Turner ultimately decided to come back for the 2021 season after the NCAA gave all players an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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After turning heads in 2020, Turner enters the 2021 campaign clearly on the radar of opposing teams. His accolades heading into the season include a selection on the All-Mountain West Conference preseason first team as a punt returner. On Thursday, he was also named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list, which is annually given to the most versatile player in college football.
The 2020 season was the debut season in Manoa for both Turner and head coach Todd Graham. Heading into Year 2, Graham sees Turner as a tone-setter both on the field and as a leader off of it.
“He has really developed as a leader and serving and elevating the people around him. That’s why I like this team,” Graham told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I think the guys have bought in to serving each other and there’s no superstar mentality. He’s a guy that works hard and he demonstrates his leadership by work ethic.
“I think Calvin is as dynamic as a player that I’ve ever coached. He has that opportunity to do that, so now the next step is go out and do it on the field.”
Turner was also given the honor of being one of Hawaii’s two player representatives at the Mountain West media days in Las Vegas last week, along with cornerback Cortez Davis. With the preseason media tour done, training camp for UH begins on Friday morning. Turner will take the field determined to prove himself yet again.
“The chip is still on my shoulder from when I was a little kid,” he said. “I’ve always been overlooked and counted out and things like that. It’s always going to be there but the flip has switched a little bit of more of now it’s time to prove that I really belong here and this is where I should have been at all along.
“Most definitely I still have a lot to prove to people and a lot to prove to NFL teams or whoever is looking at me. There’s still a lot that I have to prove to people.
“It feels like I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Senior year part two. I’ve been very excited. I’m just waiting to open up and kickoff against UCLA. It’s just been so anxious, so much anxiousness in my body just to get ready to get back out there on the field.”