Let it never be said that N.F.L. prospects do not support each other.
As Michael Turk, a 21-year-old punter out of Arizona State, approached the bench press at the N.F.L. draft scouting combine in Indianapolis on Thursday, he was cheered on by a crowd of prospects undoubtedly baffled by the sight of the only punter participating in the test. The crowd’s encouragement, and the enthusiasm of Turk’s spotter, helped power the special teams hopeful to 25 repetitions of 225 pounds — a record for a punter since the N.F.L. began keeping official combine statistics in 2003.
In a video of the performance, Turk hesitates after 21 reps, but with the crowd roaring, he powered his way to four more. The enthusiasm as Turk lifted, and the reaction online afterward, somewhat overshadowed Henry Ruggs III, a wide receiver out of Alabama who recorded a 4.27-second 40-yard dash on Thursday — tied for the fourth-fastest time since 2006.
To say Turk set a bench press record for a punter, however, would understate the feat, because punters rarely participate in the weight lifting portion of the combine. For better context, consider some of the players who completed fewer reps of the same weight in recent years:
Fittingly, Turk’s scouting report on NFL.com lists this as one of his strengths: “Very thickly muscled with arms that look like logs.”
Even before his combine performance, Turk had stood out among his peers by declaring as an early entrant for the draft after his junior season, a move not typically employed by place-kickers or punters.
“I know it’s kind of unconventional,” Turk said in an interview with a TV station in Arizona in January.
Turk is the nephew of Matt Turk, who had a 17-season career as an N.F.L. punter, and Dan Turk, who played 15 seasons as a long snapper. The younger Turk stands 6 feet tall and weighs 226 pounds — far short of Matt Turk’s 6 feet 5 inches and 251 pounds, and Dan Turk’s 6 feet 4 inches and 290 pounds. And while upper-body strength may not seem key to Michael Turk’s position, his performance gave the prospect bragging rights over every wide receiver who participated in the test on Thursday and all but one tight end. (Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara tied Turk with 25 reps.)
Perhaps of more interest to N.F.L. teams: Turk, who played one season for the Sun Devils after having begun his career at Lafayette, averaged 46.0 yards a punt last season, with a long of 75 in a season-opening win over Kent State.
Fans hoping that their team decides to invest in a punter with more upper-body strength at 21 than defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (21 reps in 2014) had at that age will have to be patient, as punters are rarely taken before the fifth round. In some years none are drafted.
The combine, which helps teams assess draft prospects through a series of interviews and drills, continues through Monday, with kickers, special teams players, offensive linemen and running backs running, lifting weights and performing other drills. Defensive linemen and linebackers will take the field on Saturday and defensive backs will do so on Sunday.
This year’s N.F.L. draft will be held from April 23 to 25 in Las Vegas. Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Louisiana State, is widely expected to be taken by Cincinnati with the No. 1 over all pick, even after his hands measured a bit smaller than expected during the combine’s measuring phase, a result he openly mocked online.