Memories of brother help keep draftee Turbin motivated
Every day he's on the field, every Sunday when he runs through the tunnel, Robert Turbin will be thinking good thoughts about his brother.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Robert Turbin filePosition: Running back
Height, weight: 5-10, 222
Drafted: 11th pick of the 2012 fourth round, No. 106 overall
Hometown: Fremont, Calif.
College: Utah State
Stats: Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2011, rushing for 1,517 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns.
RENTON — Robert Turbin's older brother was in trouble. Caught in the web of heroin addiction. Lost on the dangerous streets of Oakland, looking for another fix, feeling as if there was no way out.
But Robert had a plan for Lonnie. It was something he'd been thinking about all season at Utah State, as he was piling up 100-yard rushing games and helping the Aggies get to their first bowl game since 1997.
Robert was going to get drafted into the NFL and wherever he went he was going to take his brother with him. Get him out of Oakland and into a healthier environment. Let him see there was hope. Robert believed Lonnie could have a future.
"I owed it to him," Robert said Friday after the Seahawks' first day of minicamp.
I pointed to Turbin's massive biceps that practically look as big as a couple of heads of lettuce and asked him where they came from.
"My brother," the Seahawks' fourth-round pick said. "He used to make me work out all of the time when I was little. Even when we'd be watching cartoons he'd make me do push-ups and sit-ups. We would wrestle all the time. He was always pushing me."
On Feb. 6, Turbin was in Phoenix, preparing for the NFL combine when he got a call at 3 a.m. from his cousin. Lonnie had been shot and killed in Oakland. It would be Turbin's job to call his father, Ronald, with the tragic news.
"I would have brought him (Lonnie) with me here to Seattle, to camp," said Turbin, 22. "Maybe he could have worked around here. Pass out drinks or something. Just be around a positive environment."
Turbin had planned to get Lonnie into a good rehabilitation program. Get him sober.
"It hit us all very hard," said Ronald Turbin, who is an assistant pastor at the All Nations Pentecostal Church in Oakland, where Robert plays drums when he's in town. "We had talked so much about helping (Lonnie) and getting him straightened out. We were all devastated when that happened. But I was happy with the way Robert took it.
"You know how there's a tree that bends this way and rocks that way in the wind, but it doesn't break? That's exactly the way Robert handled it. He bent a little bit here and there, but he didn't break. He kept his head. He kept football and his goals in sight."
In many ways, the relationship between Ronald and Robert Turbin has been shaped and solidified by challenges and tragedies.
Robert's sister Trina suffered from multiple sclerosis and died at 21. He has another sister, Tiffany, 32, who has a severe form of cerebral palsy. She is paralyzed from the neck down.
Ronald taught his son how to care for his sister, how to bathe and feed her. He taught Robert how to comfort her.
"It's a lot easier than you think," Robert said.
Robert learned about love from his father and from caring for his sister. Although she can't speak to him, he feels Tiffany's love in the way she softens and smiles when he's around.
"When Robert was coming up, I didn't keep him from interacting with his sister," Ronald said. "Robert did everything and if something were to go awry, he would know exactly what to do. And I think it showed him that he didn't need to be embarrassed about anything. I started him early and any embarrassment he might have felt quickly went away."
Turbin led Irvington High in Fremont, Calif., to its first playoff win in 44 years. He was so good at Irvington that while he was in church on Sundays, neighbors would decorate the Turbins' house with ribbons and banners, celebrating the team's victories.
He was recruited by Oregon to play in the secondary. Washington recruited him as an athlete. But Turbin wanted a different challenge. He chose Utah State, which was coming off a 1-11 season. It fit his nurturing nature.
"I decided, why go to some school that already has a lot of players," Turbin said. "Why not go somewhere that needed players? Why not go somewhere and start something?"
In his final season at Utah State, Turbin ran for 1,517 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. He had eight 100-yard rushing games as Utah State went to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He is another downhill runner, another "Beast" for the Seahawks to complement Marshawn Lynch.
And every day he's on the field, every Sunday when he runs through the tunnel, Robert Turbin will be thinking good thoughts about his brother. Remembering the happier days when they would wrestle and Lonnie would push him into becoming a better football player.
"There are a lot of things that motivate me to play this game," Robert Turbin said. "And there are a lot of things that motivated me to get ready for this. And my brother is a part of that."
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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