INDIANAPOLIS -- Robert Turbin, who talks in the same runaway freight train style that he runs, has broken through the skepticism and is exploding into the daylight of possibility.
The Western Athletic Conference offensive player of the year out of Utah State is sitting at a table with a few reporters during his media session at the NFL scouting combine, virtually anonymous when compared to players with bigger reputations from better-known schools.
"I've been proving myself my entire life,'' Turbin said. "I'm very used to it and I'm very open to it. It doesn't get me down or bother me or get me angry. I love playing football. The opportunity is here. They liked something about me to invite me to this event. I'm going to do the best I can.''
Turbin grew up a go-route away from Irvington High School in Fremont, a school with little history of tradition or success in football.
Bob Spain, his coach at Irvington and now at Doughterty Valley in San Ramon, can spend hours recounting his favorite stories on how Turbin helped turn the Vikings into a Mission Valley Athletic League power.
"Someone is going to make a phenomenal pick in this draft and they're going to get a true steal," Spain said. "Kids like that, I mean, it's a once-in-a-lifetime coaching experience.''
At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Turbin has a physique which only Alabama's Trent Richardson can match. He rushed for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior, taking another
Turbin's YouTube highlight reel shows him running through and over tacklers, as well as pulling away on breakaway runs of 96, 80 and 51 yards against the likes of Utah, BYU and Texas A&M -- an indication his game speed may exceed a 40-yard dash time which has checked in at the 4.6 range. Profootballtalk.com reported Turbin was timed in 4.5 at the combine.
The MVAL defensive player of the year as a junior at Irvington, Turbin was advised by Spain his future might be on defense as a safety. Instead, after leading the Vikings to the North Coast Section 2A finals as a junior and semifinals as a senior, he went to Utah State to play running back.
His goal? Help turn around a program that hadn't had a winning season since 1993.
Turbin is a willing and enthusiastic blocker and caught 67 passes for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Aggies, catching balls out of the backfield, from the slot position and occasionally split wide.
In meetings with NFL coaches, Turbin was asked about his strengths.
"My answer is -- and other people tell me this -- I do a good job doing everything,'' Turbin said. "Running the ball, pass blocking, run blocking, running routes. I can run any play. I don't want to be a guy who can just run inside zone and power.''
Turbin overcame a right toe injury in 2007 and a torn ACL in 2010 to finish with his best season.
Spain's favorite story about Turbin's character and accountability came in his sophomore year. At 14, he was too young to play for the varsity, and he began showing up late for junior varsity practice.
That brought a stern lecture from the coach, who later learned Turbin, who lived almost right next door to Irvington, was going home before practice to be with his sister, who had cerebral palsy and needed assistance after being dropped off from school.
"Here I am, I'm dogging this kid and I feel like a complete crumb when I find out the truth,'' Spain said. "And when I did find out, I apologized, I said, 'Rob, in that case if you need to be late, then you be late.' ''
Turbin said he was given an initial third-round grade on an evaluation when he decided to come out after his junior year. He is determined to make it regardless of when he is picked.
"The goal is to get picked high, but if you don't, you can't get too discouraged because you still have an opportunity, otherwise they wouldn't draft you at all,'' Turbin said.