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By W. Gardner Selby January 15, 2014

Scott Turner, House speaker hopeful, didn't lead college team in tackles, interceptions

A first-term Texas legislator recently revisited his youthful determination to become a professional football player.

State Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, speaking Jan. 8, 2014, at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference in Austin, said he made it to the NFL despite being sidelined through his first three seasons as a student-athlete at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Turner, lately an aspirant for speaker of the Texas House, said he thrived as a player only after agreeing to switch from offensive positions to defensive back. Referring to his senior season, Turner said: "I started the whole year, led the team in interceptions and tackles from defensive back."

That’s quite an accomplishment in that many defenders can pile up tackles and interceptions. We were curious.

The online 2013 Illinois Football Record Book from the university does not show Turner leading the Fighting Illini in tackles or interceptions in any seasons.

At our request, Derek Neal, a University of Illinois spokesman, checked the football program’s "archive book" for the 1994 season.

By phone, Neal confirmed that Turner started each of that season’s games at cornerback but said other players led the team in tackles and interceptions.

Turner had 48 tackles, Neal said. Seven players had more: three linebackers, two safeties, a defensive end and defensive tackle. Dana Howard, a linebacker, led with 150 tackles, he said.

Turner had two interceptions that season, Neal said, as did three other players. Another cornerback, Robert Crumpton, led the team with four interceptions, Neal said.

After we obtained these figures, Turner told us he’d intended to indicate that he led players at his position--cornerback--in tackles and interceptions; he said by phone that he’d forgotten he trailed a fellow cornerback in interceptions.

"I know that defensive backs never lead the team in tackles. If you do, that’s a horrible team... If I misspoke, obviously, I apologize for that," Turner said. "I don’t need to embellish the truth. I played."

Our ruling

Turner said he started every game of his senior season, leading the team in tackles and interceptions from defensive back.

Turner indeed started every game. But he finished eighth in tackles and tied for second in interceptions with several players. He also did not lead defensive backs in either category.

We rate this claim as Mostly False.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

Publication, "I, the Record Book," University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013 (accessed Jan. 13, 2014)

Telephone interview, Derek Neal, associate director of athletic communications, University of Illinois, Champaign, Jan. 13, 2014

Telephone interview, Scott Turner, Frisco, Jan. 13, 2014

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by W. Gardner Selby

Scott Turner, House speaker hopeful, didn't lead college team in tackles, interceptions

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