I said, "You bet." And so George Richards said, "Well, I'd like to have you on my team, the Detroit Lions." I'd never heard of the Detroit Lions or anybody else, except I had seen a film on the Green Bay Packers. "We're going to see that you get to play with the Lions," George Richards told me.
When the time came George Richards told his head coach, Gus Henderson, to draft me No. 1. And he told me that if any of the other teams wrote to me about playing football, I should tell them I'm not interested. So when the draft came up, Detroit had about the third pick, but instead of picking me, Gus Henderson picked some quarterback that nobody ever heard of. Some guy named Doyle Nave from Southern California that never even showed up. Harry Wismer, who was the broadcaster for Detroit games at that time, told me later that he ran to the phone right quick and called George Richards and told him, "Gus Henderson didn't pick Bulldog Turner, and the Chicago Bears picked him." So George said, "I can't get anyone to run things the way I want them to," and he fired Gus Henderson.
Meantime, Richards didn't give up on me. He said, "You're still going to be with the Lions. You just tell the Bears you're not going to play pro football. I'll make you a coach at a high school out here in California for the first year, and after George Halas gives up on you, you come with the Lions."
So I went along with that, but then Halas invited me to fly up to Chicago on an expense-paid trip. Being the country boy that I was, I had never been on an airplane before, so I couldn't say no. It took all day to fly to Chicago then. George and his wife met me at the airport, which George Halas don't do normally. But I didn't sign a contract. I was grateful for the trip, but I kind of strung Halas along, you might say. However, Richards found out I went up there, and he was mad.
He came down to Abilene, Mr. Richards himself did, and registered incognito. Now I had a friend on the newspaper, Hershell Schooley, and I told Hershell, "George Richards that owns the Detroit Lions is in town and he wants to talk to me tonight." Well, you can't tell a newspaperman secrets. Hershell said, "I'm going with you," and carried a pad and pencil. We went up there to the room, and Mr. Richards came out of the shower with a towel wrapped around him and he said, "Who is this?" I said, "This is Hershell Schooley, a reporter." Richards said, "A reporter!" And man, he hit the ceiling. He said, "I've come all the way from California incognito, and you bring a newspaperman here?" Hershell said, "Why you old s.o.b.," and I had to step in and cool the smoke down. Anyway, we finally worked it out that Mr. Richards was going to send me $100 a month until something happened on the high school coaching job. But real soon after that I asked them to quit sending me the $100. Mr. Richards promised me the world, and I'm sure he would have kept his promise, but I signed with the Bears. I didn't want to lay out a year.
Then the league found out that George Richards had been trying to get me, and they fined him $5,000 for tampering with me after I was drafted by the Bears. They said Mr. Richards had spent $500 getting my teeth fixed. Well, that wasn't the truth. He never spent anything on my teeth. He sold his ball club and got out of football, and it was an injustice, because he had never spent a nickel on my teeth.
Here was George Halas' method of operation in practice. First he'd say, "Give me a center!" Then he'd say, "Bausch!" He'd say, "Give me two guards!" Then he'd say, "Fortmann and Musso!" Well, the first time I heard Halas say, "Give me a center!" I didn't wait for nothing more and ran out there and got over the ball. I noticed he looked kind of funny at me, but I didn't think anything about it. I found out later that Pete Bausch was the center—a big, broad, mean ol' ballplayer, a real nice German from Kansas. But all I knew was George had drafted me No. 1 and I had signed a contract to play center, and I thought when it come time to line up I should be at center. From the beginning I was overendowed with self-confidence. I feared no man. So I just went out there and got over that ball, and I was there ever since. They didn't need Pete no more.
I was such a good blocker that the men they put in front of me—and some of them were stars that were supposed to be making a lot of tackles—they would have their coaches saying, "Why ain't you making any tackles?" They'd say, "That bum Turner is holding!" Well, that wasn't true. I held a few, but I was blocking them, too. I used to think I could handle anybody that they'd put in front of me.
One guy I remember was big Ed Neal. There in the late 1940s he played at Green Bay, and by this time they had put in the 5-4 defense. They put the biggest, toughest guy they had right in front of the center, and I was expected to block him either way, according to which way the play went. Well, Ed Neal weighed 303 pounds stripped. His arms was as big as my leg and just as hard as that table. He could tell when I was going to center the ball, and he'd get right over it and hit me in the face. You didn't have a face guard then, and so Ed Neal broke my nose seven times. Yes, that's right. No—he broke my nose five times. I got it broke seven times, but five times he broke it.
Anyway, I got where I'd center that ball and duck my head, so then he started hitting me on top of the headgear. He would beat hell out of my head. We had those headgears that were made out of composition of some kind—some sort of fiber—and I used to take three of them to Green Bay. Those headgears would just crack when he'd hit 'em—they'd just ripple across there like lightning had struck them. So there one day, every time Neal went by me I'd grab him by the leg, and I began to get him worried. He said, "You s.o.b., quit holding me!" I said, "If you'll quit hitting me on the head, I'll quit holding you." And Neal said, "That's a deal, 'cause I ain't making no tackles." So the second half of that game we got along good, and later I got Halas to trade for him.