By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 5, 2017) — Xavier Turner doesn’t do it because he wants to see fans throw up the ‘X’, or to be called ‘X-Man,’ nor does he hope to be the X-factor.
Turner prepares each week just to get a ‘W’ for his team, so he says, and this week that means remaining focused on the longest road trip of the season, some 1,400 miles by the time the charter bus rolls to Silver City, New Mexico and back to the Tarleton field house in Stephenville.
Turner was the Lone Star Conference Offensive Player of the Week following 135 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in a 30-20 victory over West Texas A&M on September 23, and added 81 yards and two scores in last week’s 32-17 victory at UT-Permian Basin in Odessa.
Now comes the true test – replicating such production after teams no longer see him as just an ‘X-factor,’ – pun intended – but as a centerpiece in the Tarleton game plan.
I sat down with Turner this week to learn a little more about the guy who rushed for almost 3,000 yards as a senior at Birdville High School in 2014, and what keeps him humble and hungry three years later as a Tarleton Texan.
Q) What has this fall semester been like for you, getting accustomed to Tarleton, finding your way around and establishing your self here as both a student and an athlete?
A) It’s been great. I came here as a transfer, of course,e so there are a lot of new things, and I’ve just been trying to get with the program and get used to it. I feel like I’m gelling with the guys, that’s been awesome and I love it. The guys who have been here kind of took me under their wing, and now I’m trying to play my role and be a leader and lead the team down the path to where we we want it to go. Coming from JUCO, guys were all about me, to this where it’s basically a family, where it’s about us now, that makes it so open armed and welcoming. I’m very happy to be a Tarleton guy.
Q) What has attributed most to your success the last two weeks, to the five touchdowns and more than 200 yards and even your first conference player of the week award?
A) First and foremost, it has definitely been the offensive line that leads the way for me. I can tell our chemistry these last few weeks in practice has come a long way. Coach embeds in us that we have to get better each and every week, and we’re working better as a group to do that. Our offense, we’re starting to trust each other, trust the quarterback to make the right calls, the coaches to put us in the right position to succeed and each other to do the things we need to to come out with the W each time out. It’s been a team effort on our side, and the defense has come up huge for us and had some exciting plays that gave us good momentum swings and helped put us in a good position to win games.
Q) After some immense struggles in the first half, you guys roll up about 250 yards and four touchdowns in the second half last week. What changed during the intermission?
A) In the first half we just needed to calm down and get back tour game plan, back to the basics. That’s what I was telling the guys was we just needed to get back to what we do. Then Coach Whitten told everyone we need to play how we know we didn’t play before half-time, and everyone came out and held each other accountable after that. We just came out and did our job, did what we had to for the win.
Q) You guys are winning, but struggling in some ways. Do you get the impression this team hasn’t come close to play it’s best ball?
A) We’ve seen little sparks of how good we can be on the offensive side, and we’ve seen more sparks of how good our guys can be on the defensive side. If we would start out showing that and give it to a team for the full four quarters, we would be unstoppable, and we’re getting there. We just have to keep getting closer to that full four-quarter performance each week.
Q) There’s Adam Berryman, Daniel McCants and yourself, Xavier Turner. What are the difference between the three of you and how do you blend each other’s talents successfully?
A) Adam and I are different backs than McCants for sure, because he’s more of a speed back, he goes fast. Adam is more of a full throttle back who can pound it in there but also has the speed when he needs it, and I’m that way, too, I think, a full throttle back who has a little speed but can also punch it between the tackles. When we start to mix it up in there, that’s when the defense starts putting extra guys in the box and they forget about our receivers. That’s when we’re throwing over the top and striking up the band.
Q) What do you perceive as the biggest strength of your game?
A) I don’t really know, I just give to the guys up front. They pave the way for me, they create the holes, and I just do my best to see them and tame them. I see the hole, press the hole, jump cut one time and go, get it where it needs to be. But it all starts with those guys up front and the work they do.
Q) Junior college ball and Division II ball, what are the differences?
A) They aren’t’ really that much different, the speed isn’t much different as far as the players, and actually the speed of the game was faster for me in JUCO because we ran a speed offense. Here, we slow things down some and I think that’s given me more time to think and understand each situation and what I need to do to help us be successful each play.
Q) What was it like rushing got almost 3,000 yards at Birdville?
A) It was awesome and humbling to see how many people all got behind me. The recruiting got pretty crazy for a while, but my parents and coach just kept telling me to remember where I came from and just pray and I would get where I needed to be.
Q) Once college football is done, is just a memory, what will you turn to then? What are your aspirations?
A) My aspirations, of course, like everyone else, are to play in the NFL, but most likely I’ll be a teacher and a coach so I can help other young guys out the way my teachers and coaches helped me and are still helping me today.