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Turner keeps it low key heading into NFL Draft

FNS Photo by Carrie Snyder North Dakota State’s Billy Turner warms up before the Kansas State game on August 30 in Manhattan, Kan.

MINNEAPOLIS — A four-year starter for a three-time national champion, Billy Turner has spent most of the past four years in the limelight.

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The next few days, the former North Dakota State offensive tackle plans to keep things simple, even though his name will likely be called during the NFL Draft.

“It might just be me and my parents,” Turner said. “People have asked me if I’m having a party. I want to keep stuff low key.”

The draft starts at 7 tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Turner will most likely have to wait until at least Day 2 before his name is called. The first round is tonight with the second and third rounds on Friday. The final four rounds are Saturday.

“It’s a little tougher on the actual guys that are in the draft having to wait,” said Turner, who helped NDSU to the past three Division I FCS national championships. “It’s kind of like a giant Monopoly game for the NFL.”

Two other former Bison could also have their names called in this year’s draft — cornerback Marcus Williams, from Minneapolis, and quarterback Brock Jensen, from Waupaca, Wis.

If drafted, Williams and Jensen are expected to go in the later rounds. If not selected, both would likely sign with a team as an undrafted free agent almost immediately after the final round is finished.

The 6-foot-6, 314-pound Turner will be watching the draft from home in the Twin Cities area with Maurice Turner, his father, and Keren Johnson Turner, his mother.

Maurice Turner, who played running back at Utah State, was a 12th-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 1983 NFL Draft. Turner said he’s talked to his dad about the draft process, but added the draft is “completely different now than it was back then.”

Some draft analysts have Turner rated as high as a second-round grade. Dane Brugler, a senior draft analyst for CBS Sports and, has Turner as the No. 35 prospect on his final draft board.

In a recent head-to-head, three-round mock draft with ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, Turner was projected to go in the third round. Kiper slated Turner at pick No. 92 with the Carolina Panthers.

McShay has Turner ranked No. 146 on his list of top 300 prospects. Kiper has Turner ranked as the No. 10 offensive tackle in the draft, but not in his top 100 prospects.

“I’m pretty much relaxed and anxious to find out where I’m going to end up,” Turner said. “You definitely have more control when you are getting ready to play a big game.”

Leading up to the draft, Turner said he’s visited with Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota and Miami. He’s worked out for Tampa Bay, Dallas and Carolina.

“Teams have definitely said that they like me, but that doesn’t tell you where you are going to end up in the draft,” Turner said. “I want to get drafted high, who doesn’t? I have no idea where I’m going to end up.”

Of the teams that have contacted Turner, he said about half like him at tackle and the other half at guard.

Turner said he’s ready to play either position, and added that some teams think he can play center, too.

“I really like to run block,” Turner said. “I like to drive guys and try to grind guys out. But at the same time, the NFL is a big passing league, which is fine with me.”

NDSU has had three players drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft – defensive lineman Phil Hansen, wide receiver Stacy Robinson and linebacker Steve Nelson.

Hansen was drafted 54th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 1991 draft. Robinson was selected No. 46 overall by the New York Giants in the 1985 draft. Nelson picked No. 34 overall by the New England Patriots in the 1974 draft.

The highest NDSU player drafted by overall pick is defensive back Ernie Wheeler. Wheeler was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fifth round (No. 32 overall) of the 1939 NFL Draft.

“Teams don’t want to tip their hand,” Turner said. “Outside of the elite four or five players … it’s really hard to say where you’re going to end up. It’s almost like a lottery. No one really knows.”

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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