‘Huge aspirations for him’: Cowboys special teams guru raves about newcomer KaVontae Turpin

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The thing about lightning in a bottle is, it’s still lightning. It’s awfully hard to predict when it’s going to strike or where it’s going to come from.

Even as the Cowboys assembled in southern California for training camp the last week of July, it seemed, to outside observers, that their 91-man summer roster was set.

And then KaVontae Turpin happened.

After helping his New Jersey Generals team to a 9-1 record, the MVP of the USFL’s comeback season this past spring inked a three-year deal with the team. In just over a week’s time, the 5-foot-9-inch, 158-pound speedster (some outlets list him even smaller) has made a huge impression on coaches.

“I think there’s probably been a lot of proof of a lot of little guys that are really, really good,” special teams coordinator John Fassel told the media this week in Oxnard. “Eric Metcalf- I don’t know his size. Dante Hall- maybe a little bit thicker, but Turp’s probably a little bit quicker. So I think there’s a lot; Tyreek [Hill]- obviously, he may be a little but thicker. I just know when we practice against the little guys and play against the little guys, they’re really hard to see behind blockers. And then if you can ever see them, it’s really hard to get a clean shot on them. So for those little, quick, fast guys, you’ve got to populate-tackle them, and if you don’t, you don’t ever really get clean shots. I think it’s a little bit overrated- the impact of a little guy taking big body blows- because they just don’t seem to take those. I’m excited to see what he does.”

In fact, “Bones” was so juiced at the prospect of the Cowboys acquiring the former local college star that he offered to cut his family vacation short to help oversee Turpin’s workout with the club.

“I was actually, when we worked him out back in Dallas, I was with my family in Idaho,” Fassel explained, “and I texted Will [McClay, vice president of player personnel]. I said, ‘Will, if you want me to come back for this workout, I’ll come back.'”

Fassel was told to remain with his family, but his wheels were already turning over a player he was quite familiar with.

“He’s been on my radar since 2018. Clearly at TCU, I watched every single one of his returns, but then keeping an eye on him over the course of his Fan [Controlled] Football league and Spring League and then USFL. I’ve seen all of that work. When we found out he was on our radar, I was very hopeful, and obviously when we signed him, super excited. He’s got a long ways to go to compete, but I think this is a team that has a potential role for him, and I hope he exploits it.”

So far, so good.

“I have huge aspirations for him,” Fassel made it clear.

But the 26-year-old rookie has also shown impressive hands and toughness as he drills with the depleted Cowboys receiving corps. He even took snaps at running back on Thursday, with the team down several rushers.

His clearest path to the regular-season roster, though, may be as a return man. While Turpin led the USFL in receiving yards this past season, he also had the league’s only kick return for a touchdown. Collegiately with the Horned Frogs, he had two more kick returns for touchdowns, and he scored on a punt return in each of his four seasons.

With CeeDee Lamb now serving as WR1 in Dallas, there’s an opportunity for a punt return specialist. Third-round draft pick Jalen Tolbert has done a bit of work there this camp, but Turpin seems to have emerged as the frontrunner for the gig.

Fassel and the Cowboys are hoping that Turpin can uncork that lightning in a bottle several times this season and provide a big-time spark on a unit where making a splash is the name of the game.

“Every year we get the rookies and it seems like none of them played special teams in college, and if they did it was three years ago when they were a freshman,” Fassel told reporters. “So honestly, my funnest challenge in training camp is to take these guys who maybe don’t know this is going to be their role- even though that’s what it’s going to be- and to make them really, really damn good at it because that’s what their role is going to be and they really don’t know how to do it. … Part of my thing, too, is to make special teams attractive. Like, this is your role and this is a great way to instill yourself in the National Football League.”

KaVontae Turpin is well on his way, just a week into his NFL career.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire