ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Kenny Turner already has the ESPN face time and the famous friends. Now he's just looking for a little more success on the field to go with it.
Eight minutes and six seconds into his New Mexico State football career, the 24-year-old sophomore made an 18-yard dash for the right pylon at Aggie Memorial Stadium to give his team a 7-0 lead over San Diego State.
In Turner's mind, that was exactly the way it was supposed to happen.
"It wasn't really too big because I've been there before. I was just humble and ready to score some more," he said.
Since then leads – and touchdowns – have been few for both Turner and NMSU. The Aggies have been ahead in only one other game, a 16-14 win over New Mexico on Oct. 9.
It wasn't until the sixth game of the season that Turner found the end zone again when he scored in the late moments of a 33-10 loss at Fresno State.
Turner rushed for more than 1,500 yards in junior college for the Fullerton (Calif.) College Hornets in 2009. NFL stars Chris Johnson and Mike Sims-Walker are his former high school teammates and among his best friends.
Standards are high, so the struggles of the team as well as his own bother Turner.
"I don't like to lose. I don't like to fail. That's embarrassing to me. I do anything in my power to go hard," he said.
"You can't predict some things. I had high expectations coming in, but it's still not too late to accomplish a lot of things that I want to accomplish. I'm not ruling anything out."
ESPN interviewed Turner for a segment on its E:60 news program the week before the Aggies played Boise State. The episode, which aired last week, detailed the friendship between Turner and Johnson, and how it survived while Turner served five years in prison after shooting and injuring two people outside a Florida gas station when he was 16 years old.
Turner gave the show his seal of approval.
"I watched it. It turned out pretty good. All the information was pretty accurate. That's what I was looking for the most," he said. "I got nothing but positive feedback … a lot of people rooting for me. A lot of people were inspired."
Turner speaks with Johnson and Sims-Walker every day. The conversation ranges from football to, as Turner says, "whatever friends talk about."
When the talk turns to the gridiron, the running backs grade each other on their performance. Turner might be Johnson's harshest critic.
"Right now he's got a C," Turner says of the Tennessee Titan who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season. "He's still top three in rushing, but I know he can do better than what he's doing now. I just tell him to take care of things that he can help, and everything else will fall into place. Pretty much the same thing that he's telling me."
The advice might be working, because Turner's numbers have noticeably improved in the past two games.
He had 140 total yards against the Bulldogs. Against Idaho he rushed for 77 yards and also had a 57-yard TD reception that was called back because of a penalty.
"This is a guy that we felt all along that he can do some of the things that he's doing," said coach DeWayne Walker. "I think he's a guy we can build around to try to continue to improve our offense."
If that happens, perhaps Turner can fulfill his goal of joining his buddies at the next level.
"(It's) NFL all the way. No other exception," he said. " I've been through other stuff before they went to the league. More adversity, so that's nothing. I deal with things from a different perspective."