Michael Turk finds himself in a strange situation as Oklahoma’s punter. He is one of the best players in the country at his position, but the Sooners’ offense was so dynamic last season that he only got to punt 35 times. Eight of them went for at least 60 yards and 16 were downed inside the 20-yard line.
The first-team All-Big 12 selection’s role has expanded in 2022 to include serving as the team’s holder, which will help him get into the rhythm of games and show NFL scouts he can be trusted to hold as well as punt.
Should he make it to the NFL, he wouldn’t be the first Turk. He has one uncle who made three Pro Bowls as an NFL punter (Matt), another who was a long snapper in the NFL (Dan), and a brother who punted for Notre Dame (Ben). Michael actually played safety in high school, and only started punting during the gap year he took between high school and college.
The YouTube clips he sent to schools around the country were enough to earn a scholarship from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. After just one season, he was offered a scholarship by Arizona State, where he redshirted in 2018.
Turk earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors in 2019 and decided to enter the NFL draft the following spring. He was invited to the NFL combine, where he garnered national attention by recording the most bench-press reps by a punter since 2003. Written on his arm while he did the bench press was Mark 1:15, a verse that reads, “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'”
“I was just thankful to be there through all that I’ve gone through with my punting career, and I knew that God just prepared that in advance. … I knew it was such a blessing to be there and how many people would love to be there,” Turk said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in April 2020 about his combine experience.
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He was not selected in the 2020 draft and got an “unprecedented” waiver from the NCAA that restored his final two years of eligibility. The waiver was granted in large part because of COVID-19 limiting his interaction with teams prior to the draft. Turk then transferred to Oklahoma ahead of the 2021 season.
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His unusual journey has presented plenty of challenges, and Turk is grateful for the way his faith has grown during his time in college.
“If you look at anybody in the Word, you see that God doesn’t waste any of their experiences,” Turk said on the podcast. “He always grows us from that, and He always has a greater purpose behind it.”
The Dallas, Texas, native is outspoken about his faith on social media and has a YouTube channel where he posts all kinds of videos, including devotionals and Bible studies. His girlfriend, Oklahoma softball player and two-time national champion Grace Lyons, makes regular appearances on the channel as well.
As his relationship with God has grown, Turk has gained a better understanding of how to use his gifts as a punter to bring honor and glory to the Lord.
“It’s about glorifying Him, preaching the Gospel and then just whatever avenue we are — whether you’re a punter or a teacher or whatever you’re doing — doing it for His glory and allowing Him to use that for His purposes,” he said on the podcast.
Turk is on the Ray Guy Award watchlist to begin the 2022 season, but again may not find many opportunities to punt. Oklahoma was picked to finish second in the Big 12 behind Baylor, but is ranked one spot ahead of the Bears in the AP college football preseason poll, coming in at No. 9. The Sooners begin their season Sept. 3 against UTEP.
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