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Newark, N.J. • Robert Turbin believes he's not unlike any other player in Super Bowl XLVIII, personally motivated to perform and represent something beyond himself.
"Everybody has a story," the Seattle Seahawks running back from Utah State said during Media Day. "Everybody had something that helps them persevere through whatever, to help them get to this point in life."
But to this degree? Not likely. Turbin's story is one of continual setbacks for his family in northern California, riddled by disability and death.
Two years ago, as they were working out in Logan in advance the NFL draft, teammate Bobby Wagner heard Turbin answer a phone call, receiving the news that his brother had been shot and killed in Oakland, Calif. That tragedy followed the death of a sister, amid the challenges of another sister's severe form of cerebral palsy.
The knee injury that Turbin sustained during his USU career, causing him to miss the 2010 season, seemingly would be enough adversity for anyone. And yet Turbin, whose Twitter account carries the message "RIP bro & sis," plays on.
"No matter what happens in life, he's still grinding," said Wagner, a Seahawks linebacker. "Just the stuff that he's been through in his life and and still being able to be the positive person that he is and uplift his family and still be the player he is, he's definitely someone I look up to."
Like Wagner, Turbin played a major role in the turnaround of Utah State's football program. He came back from the knee injury and rushed for 1,517 yards in 2011, when the Aggies won their last five regular-season games to receive the school's first bowl bid in 14 years.
Former teammate Joey DeMartino remembers "the look in his eyes … just hungry to get back on the field" as Turbin rehabilitated his knee. And he delivered when the Aggies needed him most.
With bowl eligibility at stake, Turbin scored the go-ahead touchdown in double overtime at Idaho, then Wagner secured the win with an interception. The next week, Wagner's fumble recovery preceded USU's clock-killing drive, with Turbin gaining 4 yards on a fourth-and-1 play from the USU 44-yard line with 1:44 remaining in a 21-17 victory.
"If I can't get one yard," Turbin said that day, "then we've got a problem."
USU was so well-stocked at running back that Turbin shared the position with two other future NFL draftees in 2011, even while racking up big numbers. In Seattle, he's cast as the backup to Marshawn Lynch, one of the NFL's top runners. "It's how the league works," Turbin said. "I was prepared for any role that they gave me, really."
Even Lynch needs an occasional rest, so Turbin plays regularly and is often used in third-down passing situations as a blocker. "We like his size, we like his speed, we like his toughness," said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Turbin usually gets four or five carries, with his biggest workload coming during the Seahawks' overtime win against Tampa Bay as he gained 37 yards on eight attempts.
In 2012, the Seahawks drafted defensive end Bruce Irvin in the first round, Wagner in the second round, quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round and Turbin in the fourth round. That's a remarkable class, and historic for USU. Wagner and Turbin became the highest-drafted pair of Aggies since Rulon Jones and Eric Hipple in 1980.
Barely two years after playing in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl seemed like a big deal, they're in the Super Bowl. "It's cool, looking back on all the stuff that we went through together, all the stuff that we've done for each other throughout our college career," Turbin said.
And Turbin's family history keeps him grounded and thankful to be where he is. "It's definitely a good feeling to be in a position where I can give back to my family and friends and anyone else who helped me along the way," he said.
Robert Turbin's NFL career rushing and receiving statistics:
Year G Att. Yds. Avg. Rec. Yds. Avg.
2012 16 80 354 4.4 19 181 9.5
2013 16 77 264 3.4 8 60 7.5
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