49ers Offseason

What drives 49ers RB coach Turner's passion after 52 years in football

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SANTA CLARA — Running backs coach Bobby Turner still feels incredible passion for football, even after 52 years in the game, including the last seven with the 49ers.

This is exemplified by Turner’s infamous offseason efforts to dig deep into every running back prospect’s background during pre-draft discovery.

“It’s not not something that just comes easy,” Turner told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I do have to work at it and you have to love it. It’s just like the love of the game. And it’s part of the job. I love what I’m doing, and I want to be the best at what I’m doing.

“I have to be able to look myself in the mirror, that I did the best I could do during that whole evaluation process. Same thing in preparing weekly for the games, regardless of the score. If I get better, I can make everyone around me better.”

At 75 years old, Turner is completely adept at not just calling, but texting players throughout the draft process. The long-time coach, who has even been dubbed a “legend” by Christian McCaffrey, believes in the importance of a player’s maturity and dedication that must go along with exceptional game film.

The venerable Turner started coaching in 1972 at Kokomo High School before heading to his alma mater, Indiana State, which began his 20-year college football coaching career. He was initiated into the NFL when he was hired as the Denver Broncos' running backs coach in 1995 under then-head coach Mike Shanahan.

For the next 29 seasons Turner has worked with a members of the Shanahan family, including when Kyle joined his father’s coaching staff in 2010 in Washington. Turner followed Kyle to the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and then to the Bay Area in 2017.

Since his NFL coaching debut, Turner has approached the pre-draft process with consistent diligence that includes frequent calls, and now texts. If a player is less than timely with their responses, be certain that Turner takes note.

“I started 52 years ago, and for me, [players] don’t really charge,” Turner said. “That doesn’t mean if you didn’t return those [calls], and he could play and help us win, that I wouldn’t have felt the same way about him, but behind the scenes, No. 1 that’s held accountable for those guys.

“And they usually don’t change. So when they are not returning this and not doing that, not only am I working harder everyone around me is working harder to try to get that done.”

Turner sees a player’s professionalism as an indication of how they will approach game preparation, which for all 49ers running backs includes knowing what all 11 offensive players are doing on the field at any given moment. Turner's track record proves his method is successful.

From Hall of Famer Terrell Davis to undrafted gems like Raheem Mostert and Matt Brieda, and late-round draft pick Elijah Mitchell, Turner is continuing to leave his mark on the NFL. Isaac Guerendo is the latest player who has impressed Turner with his professionalism and play. Needless to say, the Louisville prospect answered the phone when coach was calling.

"We want players like Isaac," Turner said. "We want players like we have here. When I say it’s the 49er way, it’s a part of that."

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