ATHENS — A.J. Turman swears he never thought about it. Not when he watched his more lightly-recruited classmate seem to supplant him. Not when his team recruited two stars at his position. And not as he was forced to watch it all from the training room, powerless to show what he could do.
No, Turman stuck it out, still believing that once he got healthy he could still be a factor at Georgia’s crowded tailback position, even with the likes of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall around.
“I just love Georgia,” said Turman, who’s originally from Orlando, Fla. “There’s no real reason for me to leave. Coach never said I was never gonna play. I had injuries, things didn’t pan out the way I planned them to be. I just felt like if I keep pushing I would get my opportunity.”
There’s a chance of that happening as soon as this year.
Turman is still stuck behind the trio of Chubb, Michel and Marshall. But he’s put himself in good position to get carries after them, and as Georgia is painfully aware the past two years, the fourth-string tailback in the preseason can end up in a prominent role.
Regardless, Turman has at least re-inserted himself in the picture going forward. He’s still only a redshirt sophomore, after all.
“He’s a guy who works hard,” said Marshall, the elder statesmen of the group. “It’s been unfortunate some of the things that have happened to him. But all you can do is focus on what you can control. So I think that’s what he does, and continues to work hard. He made this decision (to come to Georgia) for a reason, not just football. He had other reasons to come to Georgia. I just would tell him to do what’s best for him, and obviously he wants to be a part of this program.”
Marshall knows plenty about having to sit out. He missed the final seven games of the 2013 with an ACL injury, and the final 10 last year with more knee problems. So he spent plenty of time in the training room with Turman.
As a freshman, Turman had ankle problems that caused him to miss the early portion of the season. In the meantime fellow freshman Brendan Douglas supplanted him on the depth chart and ended up having a fairly prominent role after injuries to Marshall and Todd Gurley. Turman ended up taking a redshirt.
Last year Turman had a toe problem and spent almost the entire year in the training room. He finally returned to practice in the lead-up to the Belk Bowl, but only then in a limited capacity. And in the meantime Chubb became a star and Michel showed what he could do as well.
“I talked to people here. Todd and Keith, they kept me in good spirits,” Turman said. “I decided on my own, there’s no real reason for me to leave, or get pushed out.”
This spring Turman was finally healthy, and made a good impression. Then he had a standout G-Day game, rushing for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
“I think the spring was my steppingstone. I needed it to get back to the game of football because I’d been out for so long,” Turman said. “Now I’m just in it, getting ready to contribute.”
The past two years haven’t been a total waste. Other injured players have used their time off to re-evaluate their academic paths. Malcolm Mitchell famously became an avid reader, and Marshall switched majors.
Turman did too: He is now majoring in sports management, with business management as a minor.
Turman said he wants to be an athletic director for a high school, and perhaps start his own physical training business. That was inspired by going through rehab.
But perhaps more interesting was Turman’s former major: Forestry and wildlife. He loved being outside and fishing, but also had a unique career plan growing up.
“My whole life I wanted to be a marine biologist,” Turman said.
Sadly, Turman said he had not seen the “Seinfeld” episode centered around George Costanza pretending to be a marine biologist.