Notre Dame punter Ben Turk and long snapper Jordan Cowart have been close friends on and off the football field since their high school playing days at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Both are thrilled to make their homecoming Monday night against Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in the BCS National Championship Game.
Turk and Cowart are two of seven South Floridians on the Fighting Irish roster.
The others: receiver Justin Ferguson of Pembroke Pines (Flanagan High); defensive end Arturo Martinez of Miami (Belen Jesuit); outside linebacker Anthony Rabasa of Miami (Columbus High); receiver Andre Smith of Davie (North Broward Prep); and safety E.J. Soto of Davie (St. Thomas).
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Turk, whose uncle, Matt Turk, once punted for the Dolphins, punted 48 times this past season for an average of 40.6 yards.
He forced 19 fair catches and had 13 downed inside the 20-yard line — with eight punts that went more than 50 yards.
“We’ve been together for seven years, and I don’t think we’ve ever had one blocked,” Turk, a senior, said. “That’s a pretty impressive stat.”
Turk said he likes “kicking a lot more down here in this heat than up [in South Bend, Ind.] where you’re kind of kicking rocks.”
Said Cowart, also a senior: “Luckily for me back in high school, my sophomore year, I played in the state championship [at Sun Life], so I always have in the back of my head, ‘Oh, you snapped here before. You did it when you were 15, 16 years old. You had a great game.’
“It’s going to keep me calm.”
Said Cowart: “We really couldn’t ask for a better setting than to be back home in front of our friends and families.”
There’s plenty of brotherly love to go around this week among the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame has four sets of brothers on the roster:
and running backGeorge Atkinson III
, from Stockton, Calif., are twins.
• SafetyChris Salvi
and linebackerWill Salvi
are from Lake Forest, Ill.
• Right guardMike Golic Jr.
and tight endJake Golic
— the sons of ESPN radio celebrityMike Golic
— are from West Hartford, Conn.
• Left tackleZack Martin
and offensive tackle/guardNick Martin
, from Indianapolis.
“It’s awesome,” said Nick Martin, a redshirt freshman whose older brother, Zack, has not allowed a sack since the second possession of the season opener against Navy. “We’re really close, and he’s a big reason I came here.”
Four of the brothers — Nick, Zack, Mike and Jake — were on the field together blocking for Notre Dame’s final touchdown against Wake Forest on Nov. 17.
“That’s when it became real,” Nick said. “We just looked at each other and knew how special it was.”
Said Zack: “It’s cool to be out here with your teammates, but to be out here with your own flesh and blood is pretty special.”
Mike Golic, part of an offensive line that has helped the Irish average more than 200 yards per game in both rushing and receiving, said he’d like to pursue a career, like his dad, in sports media — “whether it’s radio or television or the like.
“I always say I’m not good at a lot, but I’m pretty good at talking. So I figure I’ll try to parlay that into something.”
Someone suggested that maybe he’ll take the old man’s job.
Replied Golic: “That may be. I’m younger, better looking — there are a lot more pros than there are cons, so I think it’s almost dad’s time to be done.”
And how does he like playing with his brother?
“There’s nothing like it,” he said. “It’s probably my favorite thing about all of this.”