The reason KaVontae Turpin is in the NFL right now, and already considered one of the more dangerous return specialists in the league, is because of what he did this past summer in the USFL.
Turpin was the MVP of the league, starring for the New Jersey Generals.
So as Turpin prepares for Monday night's game against the Giants, played in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, one might think this would be a homecoming of sorts for Turpin.
Only there's one problem.
"I actually never went to New Jersey," Turpin said with a smile. "This is my first time going up there."
And that's just another example of the oddities Turpin has gone through in this full-circle journey that has landed him in the NFL.
The USFL (United State Football League) originally debuted in the early 1980s but lasted only three years. Just recently, the league rebooted, using some of the original teams such as the Generals. But the games and practices were actually played in Alabama. So while Turpin was making electrifying plays for the Generals, he didn't quite do that for the "home crowd" of New Jersey.
But make no mistake, Turpin will definitely be in the state for Monday's night game against the Giants – playing on the biggest of big stages of Monday Night Football.
"Yeah, that will be a dream come true," Turpin said this week. "To play in a game like that, for the Cowboys against the Giants ... it's been a long journey and I'm just blessed to be a part of it."
The term "long journey" could even be considered an understatement when you look at the places Turpin has gone to pursue his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL.
Since arriving on the scene at TCU in 2015 and becoming an immediate impact player over in Fort Worth, Turpin's career has placed him all over the world – just to get a few miles up the road in Frisco.
"I've been everywhere, man," Turpin joked when asked to describe his journey. "But I think all of those places helped me get here. It helped strengthen me and get me prepared for this opportunity."
This circuitous route to the NFL has included stops in Atlanta, with the Glacier Boyz of the Fan-Controlled Football League. Then in Houston with the Sea Lions the Spring League. He then went to Poland, playing in the ELF for the Panthers. After a season in Wroclaw, Poland, Turpin found himself back in the US, playing in the USFL for the Generals.
"I've been bouncing around, playing football year-round," said Turpin, a native of Monroe, Louisiana. "Basically, when I went to Wroclaw, I was hoping to get film, but once I got there, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I loved Wroclaw. The game there is a bit different from American football. The Europeans don't know a lot of the basics of American football, so I ended up teaching some of the basics of the game.
"The competition level is different, too. I would say it compares to Division III college football here in the United States. It's not anywhere close to Division I. But it was still a great opportunity, and I was grateful to play and to get film. And it was a wonderful experience off the field, too, because it was my first time in Europe, so I tried to take advantage of every opportunity. Not just the football, but also the culture."
But all of those stops likely led to him getting another call, including the one he got from the Cowboys after the USFL season completed this past summer.
"When the USFL season ended, the Cowboys were the first team that contacted me," Turpin said. "I had played in Fort Worth at TCU, so I felt it was a great spot to be in, to come back home to play for the Cowboys. I was at home on the couch waiting (in late July). They told me they were going to get back to me, so I was waiting on that call to come."
And when it did, Turpin immediately took advantage. He did enough to learn the offense in training camp in Oxnard, Calif., to get him on the field for offensive snaps. That was his primary goal all along.
"I feel like I can return kicks in my sleep," Turpin said. "I wanted to prove I can be a receiver in this league."
During the joint practices with the Chargers in Irvine, Turpin had a huge day catching the ball, hauling in long passes and even some grabs over the middle. But when the game got here a few days later, he did what he does best.
Turpin returned not one, but two kicks for touchdowns – a 98-yard kickoff and then an 86-yard punt return. Those two players immediately changed his life.
In a half of preseason football, Turpin went from a player on the bubble, hoping for a roster spot, to a player who could take his pads off at halftime and get ready for the season. Even after the game, head coach Mike McCarthy, who never likes to give away too much information about the status of his roster and team, went as far to say Turpin would likely be the kick returner on Sept. 9 against the Bucs.
Turpin didn't make a huge difference in the season opener, but had a couple of big returns in Week 2 against the Bengals. His 20-yard punt return set up a field goal before halftime, and then his 14-yard return helped ignite the offense for a game-winning field goal on the final drive.
While his story is already amazing, Turpin said he's not even close to being satisfied, especially as he heads to Monday Night Football against the Giants.
"I feel like I'm so close," Turpin said to breaking a big return. "I can tell we're going to close to a big one. That's what I've been waiting for. It's going to happen soon."
That positive attitude is the reason Turpin is still here. There have been many chances for him to give up on his dream.
But he never did. And that's why he's getting the chance to head up to New Jersey – finally.