Not even the sting of salt water keeps Kyle Turley's eyes from widening in anticipation of the approaching swell. He draws his knees forward, mounts his board and catches the wave. Surfing is a familiar and calming pursuit for Turley, who, after impressive showings at the combines, is suddenly the hottest name in the April 18 NFL draft. "Whenever people cut him off [in the water]" says Chris Ruddy, a surfing buddy who also makes Turley's customized boards, "he just picks them up and tosses them—in a gentle way. He doesn't rip their heads off or anything."
After a stellar season at right tackle for San Diego State, the 6'5", 309-pound Turley could be the first lineman drafted. "He looks like the complete package," fellow surfer and San Diego Chargers G.M. Bobby Beathard says.
A semifinalist last year for both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy, Turley, who runs the 40 in 4.99 seconds, allowed only two sacks in 385 pass attempts. He had 25 pancake blocks and was penalized only four times. Not bad for a kid who hadn't played football until his senior year in high school and arrived at San Diego State as a 230-pound defensive end.
Turley credits his transformation to former Aztecs offensive line coach Ed White, who played in four Super Bowls and four Pro Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings and the Chargers during a 17-year career. "He taught the same technique they use in the NFL," says Turley of White, now the line coach for the St. Louis Rams. The two men also share a passion for drawing—Turley was an art major, and White earned a degree in landscape architecture. "Off the field we compared sketchbooks," Turley says.
Until Paul Tagliabue calls his name, Turley has his days planned. "I'll sit on a beach" he says, "pick up my board and catch a wave, eat lunch, go back out and do it all again."