By Brianne Mallaghan
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Holy Cross football team ended the 2004 campaign with a game-winning 35-yard field goal in overtime to defeat league-foe Georgetown 31-28 last season. It was a story book ending to a not-so Cinderella season that no one wearing purple and white that day wants to forget. Except senior wide receiver Bob Turkovich.
It is not to say that the five-foot-11, 190-pound wideout from Bedford, Pa., was not excited for his team or fellow teammates following their only conference win of the year, but for Turkovich -- for any competitive athlete -- watching arguably the most exciting game of the season from the sidelines is not the way he wanted to end a season that began with such high expectations.
Turkovich missed the Georgetown game last year because he had suffered a season-ending injury after breaking his wrist in the Marist game on Nov. 6. "It was tough not being able to be out there for the Georgetown game," admitted Turkovich, who says his wrist is back to full strength. "But the way we finished that game definitely gave us something to build on as a team for this season. It helped build our confidence knowing we can win when we go out there."
Coming into last year, Turkovich was highly touted as one of the team's top receivers after his standout performance in preseason camp. After having only played in one game in 2003, Turkovich earned a top spot on the depth chart last season.
"Bob is a great kid. He is one of the hardest workers in my group of wide receivers," said second year wide receivers coach Chris Pincince. "He has improved tremendously since we first arrived here as a staff. Those improvements come from his work ethic on the practice field. Due to his various injuries, he has not played as much as he could have throughout his career, however, if he stays healthy in his senior season, he should be one of the best receivers in the Patriot League."
Turkovich caught eight passes for 62 yards in the first three games last year, including five receptions for 36 yards in the home opener against Duquesne. But a set back in the form of a knee injury forced him to sit out the fourth and fifth weeks of the season. He came back strong with five catches and a career-best 61 yards at Dartmouth in week six. Turkovich then caught six more passes for 57 yards and a touchdown over the next two games. Things were starting to look up after a 31-yard reception in the second quarter of the Marist game, which, according to Pincince, was "one of the greatest catches you will ever see in your life." But then it all came crashing down.
While attempting to catch a pass just before halftime in the Marist game, Turkovich's left arm was hit by a Red Fox linebacker. His wrist took the brunt of the contact, breaking on impact. He missed the final two games of the season.
Turkovich has made peace with the injury and is excited to be back on the field this year. He has spent the past two summers living in Worcester so he could work out with strength coach Jeff Oliver and take extra reps with fellow senior and starting quarterback John O'Neil. His own preparation, combined with the impressive numbers the Holy Cross offense returns this season (10 of 11 starters, including all six position players), has Turkovich expecting big things in 2005.
"I like to think that we are the deepest position on the team," he said, referring to the fact that the Crusaders are returning 100.0 percent of their total passing yards and 96.8 percent of their total receiving yards from a year ago. "We have a lot of guys who can step in and play, and everyone has been pushing each other, so those things are only going to make us stronger."
And Turkovich should know. When he was younger, he said his father pushed him to always be at the top of his game. And sometimes his father had to press him just to play the game. "There were a lot of times when he pushed me to do things that I didn't really want to do at the time, but it always turned out for the best. When I was in sixth and seventh grade, I just didn't want to play football, but he encouraged me to and I'm glad he did," Turkovich said. "If it wasn't for him, I would not have been in a position to go to school to play football and get a good education. My father has been a great influence in my life."
Turkovich's father, who played on the defensive line for Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) College in the late 1970s, has been a great influence on the football field as well. And this season, the Turkovich family will have the pleasure of watching Bob play in his senior season at Holy Cross while his younger brother, Michael suits up for his freshman season at the University of Notre Dame.
"I have always been a huge Notre Dame fan, so I'm thrilled for him," said Turkovich, who keeps in touch with former teammate and current Fighting Irish graduate assistant, Tim McDonnell. "We are all excited that Mike will be learning from the best in Charlie Weis." For those keeping track, former Holy Cross head coach Peter Vaas also is the current quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame.
And while Michael Turkovich may be Bob's younger brother, he is certainly not Bob's smaller brother. "He's a big boy," Bob said laughing, in reference to his six-foot-six, 290-pound `little brother,' who was an offensive lineman at Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pa., which has produced current NFL players Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals) and Aaron Beasley (Atlanta Falcons), and former Minnesota Vikings standout Chris Doleman. "He's a really big boy."
Turkovich says that the team's ultimate goal this season is to win a Patriot League Championship. As for personal goals, the History major jokes that choosing a career post-graduation is at the top of his list. "I'm still undecided about what I want to do. I don't have anything in particular in mind for the future, so I should really make that another goal for this year," he said laughing.
In the meantime, though, Turkovich says he is going to concentrate on football, have a good time and take advantage of his last year in college. After all, his senior year at Holy Cross is not something he wants to soon forget.