How 49ers rewarded running backs coach Turner in NFL draft

Trey Sermon

Saying Bobby Turner is thorough is an understatement. 

The venerable 49ers running backs coach has not lost any intensity as he has aged. At 71 years old, Turner is known for going over running back draft prospects with a fine-tooth comb and John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are grateful. 

The 49ers had not drafted a running back since 2017 when they selected Joe Williams in the fourth round. Williams never played a down in the NFL, but that is not to say the 49ers and Turner have not found their gems. 

Jeff Wilson Jr. went from undrafted free agent in 2018 to leading the team in rushing yards in 2020. The North Texas running back racked up 600 yards, seven rushing touchdowns, 13 receptions and three receiving touchdowns last season.

Turner is known for being intense as a coach, and that starts before the player has even walked through the doors at 4949 Marie D. Bartolo Way.  

“Bobby was unbelievable,” Shanahan said after the draft. "Bobby has been sensitive lately because I haven’t talked to to him as much, because I’ve been up in the draft room and he comes up for the running backs and stuff.

“So we got one long day together and he keeps telling me how I’ve changed because I don’t come down to his office much in the last month. Today he forgave me for it. I told him I’ve been working on some stuff and he didn’t believe me until he saw we got him two running backs.


"So he was very happy.” 

Both Ohio State’s Trey Sermon and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elijah Mitchell shared that Turner had been very involved during their pre-draft process, frequently being in contact. Knowing how the prominent coach has been a part of two Super Bowl victories coaching the likes of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis, they took those talks to heart. 

“He is an awesome coach,” Mitchell said. “Just from talking to him, I know that he coaches hard and he is into the little things, running wise, running between the tackles and running outside zone. He’s very all-in about it, and I’m excited to be able to work with one of the great coaches in the league.”  

Turner asks his backs to be as relentless on the field as he is about the draft process. Sermon used the time speaking to his future coach to get acquainted, believing through the process that he would be headed to the NFC West. 

“I knew they were pretty interested,” Sermon said. “I talked with Coach Turner a lot actually. Throughout my process, he’s probably the coach I talked to the most. So, over time I was able to just get real familiar with him and just build a great relationship. 

“I learned a lot about him. He’s a great guy. A lot of guys on the team, they mess with him, but again, he’s just a great coach.”

No one is immune from Turner’s scope, who seems to prefer the intensity of all those around him to match his own. If the coach believes you might be slacking off, rest assured you will hear about it, no matter what position you hold in the organization. 

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“I’ve even gotten on Bobby’s list this offseason, with a couple of things that went on,” Lynch said. “But it’s always so much fun when we take it back. Bobby calls here guys as much as possible, as much as you’re allowed to. But it’s a great checks and balances. He finds out a lot about these guys because he’s going to call them and he wants a call back.”  

Thus far Sermon and Mitchell have passed with flying colors. Now the real work begins. 

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