Oct. 11, 2012
By: Liam Kane
Ben Turk’s senior season could not come at a better time for Notre Dame.
The early-season victories against Big Ten opponents Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan were relatively low-scoring affairs that heightened the need to win the battle for field position.
And this has been where Turk comes in. As head coach Brian Kelly noted in his postgame remarks following Notre Dame’s signature win against the Spartans in East Lansing, this is where Turk has delivered in a big way for the Irish this season.
“Our special teams played a large role in flipping the field,” said Kelly in the days after the victory. “I think Michigan State had an average starting field position at the twenty-yard line. That was absolutely crucial to the success we had. I think you need all three phases if you’re going to win a game on the road against them.”
Turk stepped up in a big way, launching eight punts for a total of 339 yards, an average of 42.4 yards per punt. In addition, he managed to pin the Spartans inside their twenty four times. His timely success on that night came as the result of the senior’s poise and composure at a time when the Irish offense was finding a hard time getting in gear.
“I try to stay focused on what I have to do personally,” Turk says. “So regardless of the score or what quarter in the game, I just try to keep my head cool and do my own thing on the field.”
Perhaps just impressive as Turk’s mental strength are his physical attributes. In the weight room, the punter ranks as the second-leading bencher on the team. That’s right–second. At 5-11 and 186 pounds, Turk throws up 29 reps of 225 pounds, a feat only outmatched by the team’s 304-pound center Braxston Cave. His impressive physical nature is no accident. His vision for the team and for himself, as well as his unyielding will to realize that vision, strengthens his unrivaled work ethic.
“The team goal is obviously a national championship always,” he remarks. “As far as personal goals, I want to make it to the combine and have better than a forty-four-yard average. I have about four yards to go.”
If history is any indicator, Notre Dame fans can expect Turk to continue to improve on his already impressive career. As a freshman, he took over the starting role in six of the final eight games of the season, averaging 38.2 yards per punt. In his sophomore and junior years, Turk started in all 26 games. He averaged 38.3 yards as a sophomore and 40.3 yards in his junior season. In addition to his improving yard-per-punt average, Turk owns a statistic few other four-year starters share. In the seven years that the Davie, Fla., native has been playing with once high school teammate and now Irish long snapper Jordan Cowart, the tandem has yet to see one of their punts blocked. The pair hopes to graduate with that flawless streak in tact.
Turk’s success at Notre Dame extends far beyond the football field. As a finance major in the Mendoza College of Business, Turk is one of the team’s most outstanding students.
In fact, when asked about what he loves most about going to Notre Dame, Turk is quick to say, “I love the business school. It’s a lot of fun to me. It’s kind of nerdy but I like looking at the present value of things. It’s really interesting.”
Turk’s academic achievements show that, for him, school is not only interesting but also motivating. He understands the uncertainty in professional football and the value of a Notre Dame education and recognizes what he needs to do in the classroom in order to be successful.
“I have more personal expectations as far as school work goes, and having a plan B if football doesn’t work out,” he says. “So right now, I’m searching for a job, looking into investment banking, sales and trading, something along those lines.”
Turk also sees his academic success as a reflection of his growing role as a leader for the Irish.
“Off the field, I like influencing the guys with their schoolwork, trying to get them to work hard.”
On the field, Turk has seen his role as a leader develop, specifically in regards to sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza.
“I like taking Kyle under my wing and showing him the ropes. When he first got here, we were kind of competing for a spot, but it played out where I started mentoring him as opposed to competing. So I’m trying to get him ready for next year as a punter. “
If the Irish are going to continue to win, they are going to need Turk to continue to lead with his focus and with his intensity. Fortunately, they can expect the senior to do just that.