Arizona State punter Michael Turk is able to do what hundreds of college athletes have been unable to do.
Turk, the nephew of former NFL punter Matt Turk, declared for the 2020 NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore season in 2019 and signed with an agent. That’s a decision that always ends an athlete’s college eligibility. NCAA rules prohibit a football player from returning to school after signing with an agent.
After going undrafted, Turk decided he wanted to return to school. So he appealed to the NCAA to come back. And the NCAA granted that appeal, reportedly on the grounds that Turk’s draft preparation was impacted because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The school applied for a special waiver in hope of getting Turk's eligibility restored. The school cited the coronavirus pandemic as special circumstances since ASU's Pro Day was canceled. The pandemic also prevented Turk, and others, from having private workouts for teams which is a usual occurrence in advance of the draft.
Though the pandemic wasn’t the exclusive reason that Turk applied for an NCAA eligibility waiver per Arizona State, his role as a punter was a key factor in his appeal because of the way punters and other specialists are evaluated in the normal pre-draft process.
As the pandemic shut down pro days and in-person evaluations across the country, the way NFL teams evaluated draft prospects in the weeks ahead of the draft changed significantly. While the circumstances of his waiver are potentially unprecedented, it’s unlikely that his waiver will be the first of many given to other players who declared for the draft, signed with agents and then went undrafted.
Turk was one of just two punters, along with Auburn’s Arryn Siposs, to declare early for the NFL draft. Siposs was not drafted either.
"I left college early to pursue a professional career and that didn't work out, however," Turk said in a video he posted on Twitter. "I've been working hard and praying about it and now, due to COVID-19 and extenuating circumstances, I've actually been granted my two years of eligibility back to play college football and I will be going back to Arizona State University."
Turk was an All-Pac-12 punter in 2019. He punted 67 times and averaged 46 yards a punt. He returns to school as a junior in 2020 and with some competition for his old job. After Turk had declared for the draft, Florida State punter Logan Tyler grad transferred to the Sun Devils.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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