Editor’s note: Savannah native Calvin Turner Jr. has reportedly accepted rookie mini-camp invitations this month from the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Turner, who was not selected in the 2022 NFL draft last week, was a standout for the University of Hawaii as a wide receiver, running back and special teams player. A story about Turner, a multiple-sport star at New Hampstead High School, as a preview to the draft follows.
NFL teams looking to draft a running back, consider Calvin Turner Jr.
More in the market for a slot wide receiver? Turner can do the job.
Perhaps fortifying special teams units is on the to-do list. Turner, again, is a candidate, having also proven to be a dangerous kickoff and punt returner the past two seasons at the University of Hawaii.
Have a vacancy at long snapper? Well, here’s something the Savannah native doesn’t do — yet.
“I’ve never tried that before. I can try,” Turner said Wednesday, back home in Savannah.
Decision on 2021: Calvin Turner Jr. of Savannah back for more with Hawaii football team
Versatility is the calling card for Turner, who hopes to hear his name called during the NFL draft this Thursday through Saturday. He’s heard and seen in some mock drafts that he could be a late-round pick on Saturday, perhaps the sixth or seventh round, or receive offers as an undrafted free agent.
He said he’s excited to find out what’s next.
“I know I’ll be in somebody’s training camp and I’ll be prepared and stoked for the opportunity to just go out there to compete and perform,” said Turner, who will be watching the draft at home with family and friends.
Honored as Savannah’s Most Versatile Male Athlete by the Savannah Morning News while a multiple-sport star at New Hampstead High (Class of 2017), Turner has played all over the football field in college.
He received All-Pioneer Football League honors as a freshman cornerback and then for two seasons as an option quarterback (now that’s an unusual position change) at Jacksonville University. The FCS program abruptly disbanded after his junior season, and Turner considered several college offers. He accepted the most distant one at FBS Hawaii, where he was an All-Mountain West second-team selection as a wide receiver in 2020 and 2021.
Wherever the Rainbow Warriors needed him, Turner came through.
As a newcomer in 2020, he led the conference and was 26th in the nation with 11 total touchdowns. He also led the team in receiving TDs (six), receiving yards (546), kickoff return yards (324) and all-purpose yards (1,201) in a nine-game schedule.
That first season concluded in the New Mexico Bowl, where he was selected Most Oustanding Offensive Player with 252 all-purpose yards including a 75-yard TD catch and a 92-yard kickoff return for a score in a 28-14 win over Houston.
After he considered entering the draft for 2021, Turner stayed to finish his education. He will earn a degree in interdisciplinary studies in May, with focuses on kinesiology and education for a future in coaching.
He also wanted another season of reps at running back and receiver.
Turner started all 13 games in 2021, when he led the Rainbow Warriors in total TDs (12), rushing TDs (eight), receptions (73) and all-purpose yards (1,523), and was second in receiving yards (876) and scoring (74 points). He contributed 314 rushing yards.
The highly productive player, named to the Paul Hornung Award and Doak Walker Award watch lists before the season, had at least one touchdown in 16 of his 22 games for Hawaii.
Some teams see him as a running back, others more of a slot receiver, said Turner, who has been training and practicing routes from out of the backfield, in the slot and as an outside receiver.
Rather than viewed as a supreme athlete without a clear-cut position, the 5-foot-11 1/2, 197-pound speedster could be a smart fit in the modern NFL in which versatility is highly valued because of game-day roster limits and injuries straining depth charts.
“It definitely helps me out a lot,” Turner said. “If you’re at the bottom of the roster, the more you can do, the more it will help you.”
Offensive playmaker at several positions
He lists off running back, receiver, kick returner, punt returner, gunner on special teams coverage. He could add emergency quarterback and wildcat formation QB. Or even defensive back, but scouts are wisely talking exclusively about getting the ball in his hands in space.
“Anything you need me to do, I feel I can do at a very high level,” Turner said. “I feel like my versatility, all the things I can do, the complete package I come with, it will boost me throughout this process and just help me make the roster when I do get on the team.”
Getting one team to give him an opportunity is a huge accomplishment considering the long odds of any player rising from youth leagues through scholastic and collegiate football to an NFL training camp.
So much national focus leading up to this week is on the 32 first-round picks, but many more players are anticipating a launch to their professional careers in the six rounds that follow, or hope to have a choice of offers as free agents.
“I know I’m not a first-round pick,” Turner said, “but wherever I go, I’ll be happy to go anywhere, at any moment, and I’ll be ready to work and perform, helping a team out any way I can.”
Impressing NFL scouts
He helped himself following the season by playing in the East-West Shrine Bowl and by participating in a pro day in March, both in Las Vegas. His measurables included a time of 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a vertical jump of 38 1.2 inches and a broad jump of 10 feet, 3 inches, as well as 19 reps in the bench press. These efforts compared favorably to many running backs and receivers at the NFL scouting combine to which he didn’t get an invitation.
He said a lot of scouts told him he did really well.
“They didn’t think I was going to test that well or run that fast or jump that high. I felt like I had a really good showing,” he said.
“I came out and surprised everyone, showed them that I’m a person that has the athleticism to play at the next level and that I fit with all the other great athletes of the NFL. So it definitely was a good thing.”
Good things keep happening for Turner, who proposed about a month ago to his longtime girlfriend Alexis. They plan to marry in early 2023.
He’s made good choices, and said he’s gotten support from his parents, from Alexis and from his agent Ed Wasielewski of EMG Sports in the Philadelphia area. And he’s guided by a higher power.
“I put my faith in God, and I feel like he guides me and puts me in situations I should be in,” Turner said. “I have no regrets about this entire process, being at Jacksonville, being at Hawaii. I think I wouldn’t be here in this moment if it wasn’t for me going to Jacksonville and Hawaii. Obviously, everything works itself out. As long as I do the right thing, then everything works itself out for good.”
Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NathanDominitz
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: NFL draft 2022: Calvin Turner of Savannah prospect from Hawaii