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Michael Turner: Atlanta Falcons record-setting running back
Michael Turner enjoyed a near MVP-level season in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons rushing for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. (Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Michael Turner: Atlanta Falcons record-setting running back

ATLANTA (BVM) – Michael Turner’s underdog mentality started early on in his football career, fueling him to multiple 1,000-yard seasons at the highest level. After spending the opening of his career as a backup, Turner quickly changed the narrative during his run with the Atlanta Falcons, becoming a fan favorite in part to his hard-nose running style. 

As one of the most important cogs to Mike Smith’s tenure as head coach, Turner epitomized one of the most successful eras in Falcons’ history.

Michael Turner’s high school, college career

Attending North Chicago Community High School in Illinois, Turner’s breakout senior year helped the program to its first playoff bid in nearly a decade. Behind a career year in which he rushed for 1,392 yards and 14 touchdowns, the Chicago native would still find himself on the outside looking in when it came to college recruiting. With one major offer on the table, Turner decided he would attend Northern Illinois University (NIU) where he could land a starting job right away.

Sleeping on the freshman running back would be a mistake for teams around college football who quickly found out just what the Chicago product could bring to the table. Turned racked up 983 yards as a freshman, before going on to finish second in the country with 1,915 yards in his junior campaign. As Turner entered his senior year with higher expectations, the NIU running back would find a way to live up to the hype, rushing for 1,648 yards on the year. The dominant season included an upset performance as the senior back totaled 156 yards on the ground, propelling the Huskies past the No. 21-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.

Michael Turner Chargers
San Diego Chargers running back (33) Michael Turner rushes for 11 yards in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High. (Credit: Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports)

Michael Turner’s NFL career

After his star-studded collegiate career, Turner was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft. His early professional career wouldn’t quite find the same success as it did in college as Turner played primarily behind Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson throughout his Chargers’ career. With just one start, and a total of 1,257 yards throughout his four-year tenure with the team, the 5-foot-10, 244-pound running back still garnered interest league wide for his flashes as the team’s backup. 

Behind a strong playoff performance as the lead back in his final season with the Chargers, Turner would finally get his chance as the starter after signing a six-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. It wouldn’t take long for the onetime change-of-pace back to start things out strong, putting together one of the best rushing seasons in Falcons’ history during his opening campaign in 2008. Behind 1,699 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, Turner helped carry the Atlanta offense to an 11-5 record and All-Pro first-team honors during the year. Combined with the likes of Matt Ryan and Roddy White, the trio of playmakers led the Falcons to a top-10 offensive season. 


Over the next four years, Turner would total over 4,300 rushing yards, breaking both the organizations’ single season and all-time rushing touchdown records. With 10 or more touchdowns in every season with the team, Turner helped turn the tide of the Atlanta offense during his tenure with the team as the Falcons became annual Super Bowl contenders.At age 30, Turner was released by Atlanta before the 2013 season and would not sign on with another team. The 2012 season would be his last in the NFL.

Michael Turner Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) runs the ball against the Detroit Lions defense during the 2nd half at Ford Field. Falcon won 31-18. (Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Michael Turner’s career earnings, net worth

The former Atlanta Falcons star made it a rare task for defenders to take him down on the first tackle during his nine seasons in the league. Since the closing of his time in the NFL, Turner has gone on to live a life out of the spotlight. He has made appearances during different ceremonies in the past, including his induction into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Hall of Fame in 2018.

Nicknamed “The Burner,” the former NFL running back has accrued an estimated net worth of $35 million.


Photo: Michael Turner enjoyed a near MVP-level season in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons rushing for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. (Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)