BOWLING GREEN - Three years ago, Anthony Turner earned a career-long ban on questions about his toughness. Turner, who likely will start at quarterback in place of injured star Omar Jacobs for Bowling Green State University tomorrow against Akron, was just starting the Division II state championship game for Dayton Chaminade-Julienne.
Four plays in, a tackler smashed Turner's throwing hand with his helmet.
A doctor looked at his hand on the sideline and saw a hematoma the size of a tennis ball.
Before long, the hand went numb.
The doctor said no more damage could be done. Turner said, "Wrap it up."
Turner finished the game, throwing a touchdown pass, and C-J won.
"He knew if he didn't play, they probably weren't going to win the state title, without the threat of him being there," said BGSU tight ends coach Troy Rothenbuhler, who initially recruited Turner. "He carried them a long way."
It's those moments that lead the people who know Turner to believe a harried performance in his first significant playing time last week against Western Michigan was an anomaly. Turner has long had the talent and desire to win.
Turner, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound redshirt freshman, was one of BG's most high-profile recruitsin the last several years. The maturity that led coach Gregg Brandon to say last season he could compete for the starting job as a true freshman came from experience in big games, but also from having prepared for this for a while.
Turner received a scholarship offer from Michigan State after his sophomore year. After his junior year, when he threw for 2,200 yards and 21 touchdowns, several Big Ten schools, an SEC team, and Notre Dame were recruiting him.
Rothenbuhler saw eight of Turner's high school games and several of his basketball games, and he couldn't miss the other college coaches who were there to watch him too. All saw Turner's sprinter speed and versatility.
"He could run, he could do it all," Rothenbuhler said. "We took our shot. All the big boys were recruiting him."
The Michigan State offer shocked Turner but made him realize early the importance of the decision he would make. There were more factors involved than which conference.
"I had a lot of family come through Bowling Green," Turner said. "Keeping the family tradition alive was a big thing that my mom talked to me about."
His senior year the choice came down to BGSU and Iowa. Turner hurt his shoulder before his senior season and his passing stats weren't as impressive, but BGSU had a doctor check him on his official visit and the school had no worries.
One other meeting on the trip solidified the choice. Turner met then quarterback Josh Harris, whom he compares his style to, in the locker room after a game. Harris asked Turner why he wanted to go to Iowa and Turner said he just wanted to play. Harris responded, "If you want to win, you want to go to Bowling Green."
Before the WMU game BGSU fans had few glimpses of Turner this season, as he spent his time in mop-up duty, mostly handing off the ball.
Against Boise State Turner showed a few flashes, with runs of 13 and 8 yards on one drive.
But against the Broncos, when Jacobs was sacked in the first quarter and had to leave the stadium for X-rays on his separated shoulder, it was Turner's job. He felt a rush of adrenaline - and his heart drop. But that went away after the first play. Turner displayed a strong throwing arm in passing for 242 yards, but also freshman inexperience in throwing two interceptions deep in WMU territory.
The picks were blemishes but many think in time he could have similar success that predecessors Harris and Jacobs have had in BGSU's potent offense.
"I don't think he has the fear of failure that other people have," said Jim Place, Turner's high school coach.
"He's got his life in such a perspective, and because he doesn't have that fear, he's able to cut loose. He's not afraid of trying to make plays."
In the last week he has worked with Brandon on his pocket awareness, and will focus on making better passing decisions. He's so focused on his new challenge that games like the state championship are hard to recall.
"Back then it was the coolest thing, but right now the coolest thing is trying to win the MAC," Turner said.
Contact Maureen Fulton at: