INDIANAPOLIS – When Indianapolis Colts running back Robert Turbin reminisces about family, the memories are often painful. His brother, Lonnie, was fatally shot in 2012 as Turbin prepared for the NFL Scouting Combine. His sister, Trina, died from multiple sclerosis when she was just 21.
But through the years, Turbin has learned to channel his grief, to use it for motivation.
“I think about them a lot, but it’s really random,” Turbin said during a recent break from Colts training camp. “Music can take you back (to them). You’re riding in a car, a song comes on, and you go back to some of those moments you shared.
“When I’m on the field, I’m keeping them in my heart. They keep me stronger, and I try to use that to my advantage, more so now than I did earlier in my career. You want to use it as inspiration, but you may not know how. It took me some time.”
At age 27, Turbin believes this is his prime time in the NFL, a six-year vet determined to play a key role for the Colts this season. After testing free agency, Turbin re-signed with Indianapolis after the most productive campaign of his career. No NFL running back had as many touchdowns (seven) in fewer attempts (47), and Turbin was also an effective target (26 catches) and pass protector for quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Colts re-signed Turbin not just for his ability, but for his passion. He was furious when the Colts were eliminated from playoff contention last season in Week 16 after losing to the Oakland Raiders. The defeat ruined Turbin’s homecoming to the Bay Area, and after the game, he made his intentions for this season clear.
“I wanna be back here next year because I’m (expletive) coming back to help this team win a championship,” Turbin told IndyStar in December. “Period. With a (expletive) vengeance.”
Turbin’s return coincides with the Colts’ plan to limit the workload of 34-year-old starting running back Frank Gore. Turbin, Josh Ferguson and rookie running back Marlon Mack will receive plenty of training camp reps, and it is easy to envision Gore getting fewer carries than the 236 he had in 2016.
If there are more opportunities for other backs, Turbin wants them.
“I definitely have aspirations of being a starter, a great player,” said Turbin, who has never had more than 80 carries in six NFL seasons. “You’d like to be the featured back and have success. I believe it will come one day. I know it will. I’ve been saying that for a long time, and I say it because I believe it. When that time comes, I’ll be ready.”
Turbin and Gore are friends, and spent time together in the Bay Area this summer where Turbin held his youth summer camp. Those close to Turbin know the adversity he has overcome, more than just the death of two siblings. His older sister, Tiffany, has a severe form of cerebral palsy that has left her paralyzed from the neck down, unable to speak. His mother, Lovie Mae Jones, has battled heroin addiction throughout Turbin’s life, which has affected his relationship with her.
“We talk,” said Turbin of his mother. “We’re not like super-close, but I have a lot of love and respect for my mother. She’s a good person. Everyone has their struggles they go through in life. I’ve understood that more as I’ve gotten older. Some things you can’t control. She had to fight some demons within herself every day. Unfortunately, it led to her not being able to be around a lot. But at least now, we can talk.”