There has been a lot of NFL talent to come out of TCU. Names like Larry Brown, Bob Lilly, Sammy Baugh, and LaDainian Tomlinson were all Horned Frogs before their legendary NFL careers. The Dallas Cowboys’ new kick returner, KaVontae Turpin, is hoping to add his name to that list.
Turpin wasn’t an undrafted player because of a lack of talent. At TCU, Turpin had six return TDs. He averaged 14.3 yards per punt return and 28 yards per kick return.
What kept Turpin out of the NFL was his release from the TCU program in 2018. Just hours after the Horned Frog had a 99-yard kickoff return (to set a school record with six returns) and a 41-yard touchdown catch, the receiver was arrested and charged with battery assault against his girlfriend. Six months later, he plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge for actions against the same woman.
In 2019, Turpin received two years of deferred adjudication probation and had to complete a 27-week partner abuse intervention program.
These legal issues kept him from pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL. So he took the difficult route. He played in the Spring League, Fan Controlled League, and even went abroad to play football in Europe.
Four years later, a fellow TCU alum who knows a thing or two about NFL success says the 26-year-old is a changed man. In an exclusive interview with Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Tomlinson said he noticed a maturity change in the Cowboys returner when watching him play against the Chargers.
This chance with the Cowboys is his first chance to play at the NFL ranks since pleading guilty to assault.
LaDainian Tomlinson says Cowboys returner KaVontae Turpin has matured a lot since his days at TCU
As a proud TCU alum, Tomlinson remembers Turpin showing flashes of brilliance in his freshman year. However, the Hall of Famer also saw an immature player who was getting caught up in all the wrong things and wouldn’t take advice from those he should have.
When LT was covering Cowboys camp for NFL Network, he immediately noticed a difference between the Turpin of today and the one he saw six years ago:
"“I could see it in his face. He was so thankful. He was humble. He said I got this opportunity and I ain’t going to let nobody down.”"
The former NFL MVP also got to see Turpin at the Chargers preseason game. What stood out to LT most was how Turpin was interacting with his Cowboys teammates.
Tomlinson could tell that Turpin had matured since his college days and learned a lot from his long journey to get a chance in this league. The talent was never in question, but the humbleness was. The long-time Charger believes the new Cowboy is a changed man.
"“The talent is undeniable. He is not a big guy. But he is a quick as a mosquito. Once he is up field, it’s goodbye. But it’s also his attitude. He is a small guy but his attitude as a big man. He will try to run over as well as run by you.What I want to see now is which guys on the team he gravitates to stay focused and on straight and narrow.”"
This certainly doesn’t discount Turpin’s past. However, his ability to grow and learn from his mistakes is a good sign for the Cowboys organization. Plus, the seal of approval from one of the best former NFL players is no small thing.