IRVINE, Calif. — It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog and, to that point, there's enough Cujo inside of KaVontae Turpin to make Stephen King blush heavily.
Listed at a very generous 5-foot–9 and weighing in around 153 pounds, where the former TCU speedster lacks in imposing stature he makes up for in how he bears his teeth on every snap.
Signed at the start of training camp in Oxnard to immediately become the Cowboys return ace in 2022 - allowing for both Pro Bowl wideout CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard to peel back on those duties - the injury to James Washington combined with the continued recovery of Michael Gallup to create a vacuum at the wide receiver position behind Lamb; and one that led to questions on if Turpin can be a viable option on offense.
For his part, the answer is as simple as the question itself.
"I'm a receiver. That's what I do," he said with a smile, following his best outing at camp when the Cowboys faced the Chargers in the first of two scrimmages. "Special teams - I can do that in my sleep. I'm trying to show the NFL that I can play receiver at this level, too."
On Wednesday, the reigning USFL MVP and USFL leader in receiving yards stole the show - as a wideout - with a fourth-down conversion on a deep sideline grab that saw him reel in an over-the-shoulder catch from Cooper Rush in double coverage, and then keeping both of his feet inbounds to complete the process.
Turpin then jumped up and let out a roar toward the Chargers defense.
"The play before, I dropped the ball and I was frustrated," he admitted, referencing a previous throw from Rush that bounced off of Turpin's chestplate for an incompletion. "When I saw them call the next play, I knew it had a chance to come to me, so I ran my route and saw [the ball] in the air and told myself, 'I gotta make this play.'
"… So when I made it, I was just excited because it was the first deep ball that's been thrown to me since I got [to the Cowboys]. I just had to make it."
And, with that catch, Turpin's confidence is bursting at the seams.
"Speed kills. That's what I do," he added. "With my speed, I feel like guys can't check me. They can't do [anything] with me.
"I can catch, too. This is what I do. I've played this game my whole life. I'm just glad God blessed me with this talent to come out here and show people what I can do."
The Cowboys have been working to integrate Turpin more into the offensive scheme over the past several weeks, calling his number on jet sweeps and slants, and even as a halfback at times (taking handoffs on certain plays), but Wednesday was, in fact, the first time he was utilized in a manner that took the top off of the opposing defense. Even better for Turpin was in how he made the aforementioned highlight play in traffic, and not simply after creating a mile of separation with his speed. It's plays like that the Cowboys will key in on as they try to figure out their WR depth to begin the 2022 season.
That could potentially include offensive coordinator Kellen Moore creating a special section of plays for Turpin, be it as a decoy or actual target, to keep the opposing defense guessing.
"I feel like [me being here] gives them a chance to put more plays in the playbook - just [designed] around me," said the turbo-powered 26-year-old. "With me doing whatever they need me to do … I feel like that opens up the playbook with the offense with Dak [Prescott], Zeke [Elliott] and CeeDee [Lamb] because when I'm in motion the [defense] has to keep an eye on me. It just opens up the playbook."
Turpin showed the Chargers what he can be in scrimmage No. 1, and will get another shot in No. 2 and, eventually, the preseason battle against them on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are going to keep pushing him to see just how sharp his teeth actually are, after seeing him take a chunk out of the Chargers defense on Wednesday.