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Orange Bowl buzz felt around NFL locker rooms

DeKALB – When Michael Turner was at Northern Illinois, the Huskies would talk about winning the Mid-American Conference and going to what previously was known as the Motor City Bowl.

A lot has changed since Turner’s last year in 2003. Turner, who was in town for NIU’s “X’s and O’s with the Pros” men’s football clinic Friday at Huskie Stadium, got a lot of attention from his Falcons teammates when NIU earned its Orange Bowl bid.

“It was crazy. Everybody was talking crazy to me about it, all of my teammates,” Turner said. “So it was crazy that it actually happened, the Orange Bowl, a BCS game. Something I would have never imagined.”

Former NIU players Ryan Diem, Pat Schiller, Chandler Harnish and Nathan Palmer also were in attendance.

Turner, who ran for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns for a Falcons team that came one win shy of the Super Bowl last season, was released by Atlanta but hopes to catch on with a team after the NFL draft.

“Everybody’s pretty much waiting right now, waiting until after the draft,” he said. “I’m waiting to pick my spot, choose the best spot for me.”

Harnish, Palmer reunited: Harnish was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the final pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, making him “Mr. Irrelevant.”

When Palmer came to Indianapolis after being signed off the 49ers practice squad, it was just like old times for the two former Huskies. Harnish split last year between the active roster and practice squad, and Palmer played in five games and had one reception.

“It felt like the good ole days. I remember, it was like the first or second day, we were doing 1-on-1 (drills), and the coaches had me and Nate go together,” Harnish said. “We were just throwing deep balls and just burning everybody. It was really cool because I’m like, this is a guy I know exactly what he does well, I know he’s got a lot of speed, I’ll throw it up and let him go get it. We kind of just took those skills that we developed in college and took it into the pro game.”

Both players also got to be part of a surprising Colts team that made the playoffs before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round.

“I was really excited about last season,” Palmer said. “After what we went through as a team and stuff, getting beyond and making it to the playoffs, doing a lot better than what people expected us to do, that was a great feeling last year.”

Schiller looking for roster spot: Last season, Schiller was a practice squad player for the Falcons after going undrafted.

He’s hoping to spend next year on the 53-man roster.

“I plan to go in there and I plan to compete for a spot, bottom line,” he said. “I don’t want to go in there and think of myself as a practice squad player. But at the end of the day it’s not my decision. I can only do what I can do and control what I can control.”

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