Good luck trying to get Paul Turner to talk about himself.
Not just with the media. With his teammates, too.
“He’ll make a big play, he’ll act like it didn’t even happen,” Jordan Matthews said with a laugh. “He just goes right back to the huddle.”
Turner, a quiet, humble undrafted rookie wide receiver from Louisiana Tech, has been opening eyes both in practice and in the preseason games with his playmaking ability.
In an underachieving wide receiver group, he’s really stood out.
It’s rare for undrafted rookie wideouts to make the Eagles’ roster. Rarer still for them to contribute. Exceptions are Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis, the latter of whom is now Turner’s position coach.
“Paul Turner has really kind of caught our eye here the last couple of weeks and is doing a nice job there,” coach Doug Pederson said.
“He’s made some plays the last couple of games. He made two really big catches the other night.”
Turner caught a game-high six passes for 34 yards in the preseason opener against the Bucs at the Linc and had 3 receptions for 44 yards Thursday night in Pittsburgh, including a one-handed, 23-yard highlight reel snag from Chase Daniel that dazzled everybody except, apparently, Turner himself.
“I wasn’t really thinking at the time,” he said. “It kind of just happened. I couldn’t get my other arm up and I knew if I could just get one hand on it then I could possibly come down with it, and that’s basically what happened.”
For what it’s worth, Turner is tied with tight end A.J. Derby of the Patriots for the NFL lead with nine catches after two games. He’s sixth with 78 yards.
The numbers don’t mean much. But watching Turner, you do get the impression he belongs on this level.
“I feel like I’m just going out there and I’m just doing my job and that’s basically what the goal is,” he said. “Just go out there and continue to do your job day in and day out and that’s what we’re all trying to do. Just do our job.
“And if we can all do our job, we can make this offense even more productive.”
Turner only caught 87 passes for 1,171 yards and seven touchowns in two years at Louisiana Tech after transferring from LSU, where he played only on special teams.
The numbers certainly aren’t gaudy and neither are Turner’s measurables. He stands 5-foot-10, 195 pounds and ran a 4.55 at his pro day. He wasn’t one of the 43 wide receivers invited to the NFL scouting combine.
But none of that has mattered when the ball is thrown his way. He catches it.
It didn’t take Turner long to impress Matthews.
“The game of football is played on a five-inch field," Matthews said pointing to his head. "So before we even get into height, weight, any of that stuff, it’s what kind of mindset does a guy have when he goes into a game and, Paul Turner, ever since he’s come into practice, you know, training camp, OTAs, all those things … he’s always had a great mindset. He’s very calm. And that’s just his demeanor. That’s just who he is. It’s innate.
"It’s like when people came to me last year and asked me what’s the biggest thing that the receivers need to improve and I was like, ‘It’s confidence.’ It’s all about confidence. Confidence and mindset."
Pretty clear that if Turner keeps this up, he’ll make the roster.
The only locks at wide receiver are Matthews, who has 152 catches in his first two seasons, and Agholor, last year’s first-round draft pick. The Eagles also recently traded for Dorial Green-Beckham. They may be more inclined to keep a player they just acquired.
Josh Huff, Rueben Randle and Chris Givens haven’t done anything to secure a roster spot, so the door is definitely open for Turner, who got some first-team reps Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
“Biggest thing is you’ve just got to take advantage of the reps that you get,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing for all of us as rookies.
“You don’t get many reps, so when you do get your reps you’re just trying to make the best of them, and that’s what I think each and every one of us has tried to do thus far.”
Turner shares the same team-first mentality that Matthews has that’s so rare among wide receivers. Matthews said that’s one of the things that sets him apart.
“I think sometimes people don’t realize, when you bring a guy in, it’s not just what you saw from college,” Matthews said. “This is probably something that’s been built up since he was a kid.
“We don’t know all about his upbringing or how he was raised, but you can tell he was raised right. He was raised in a way that hey, you know, good things are going to happen, bad things are going to happen, but you’ve got to just keep working, keep going, and I think that’s what enables him to do so well.
“I love watching Paul. He’s come in and he’s played great. If there’s one good thing that’s come out of me being out it’s him being able to get extra reps, and he deserves those reps.
“He’s worked extremely hard, he’s been extremely consistent in camp, too, and you like to see a guy like that come in when a guy goes down and be able to make plays.”
If Turner is impressed with himself, he’s not letting on.
He’s still carrying that mentality of an undrafted free agent who still hasn’t proven anything or earned anything.
“I feel like I’m doing an OK job, I just feel like there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Turner said. “I feel like each and every one of us has room for improvement. If one of us can get better, it’ll make the whole unit get better.”