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Texans punter inspired by memory of his brother

HOUSTON (AP) -As Matt Turk sends punts thudding off the ceiling at the Houston Texans training complex, his brother is never far from his thoughts.

Dan Turk, a center in the NFL for 15 seasons, died in 2000 from testicular cancer. Seven years later, Matt takes solace in that they got to be teammates in Washington from 1997-99. The year before he was stricken, Dan long-snapped the ball to Matt in a game, the first brother-to-brother, center-to-punter snap in league history.

And one of a thousand fond memories for Matt.

"He was my long snapper, he was my best friend, he was my father figure," said Turk, younger by six years. "I went to him for advice and he always looked out for me. He's the reason I'm in the NFL."

A three-time Pro Bowler, Turk signed with the Texans as a free agent in late July. He's competing against incumbent Chad Stanley for the starting job.

Still inspired by his brother's words, Turk's goal is not only to win the spot, but to lead the league in punting.

"He would always remind me that if you're going to do something, make sure you're doing it right, trying to be the best," Turk said. "That was the way he lived his life and that's the biggest thing I took away from him."

Dan and Matt were two of six brothers born and raised in Greenfield, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee. For countless hours in the front yard, one older brother taught Dan how to long-snap, while another brother showed Matt how to kick.

"With six boys, football was just a big part of our lifestyle," Turk said. "We played it all the time."

Turk, 39, attended Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater and signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 1993. He didn't punt for the first time as a pro until 1995, when he played for the Redskins. A year later, he made the Pro Bowl, averaging 39.2 yards per punt, still his career best.

After two more seasons with the Redskins, Turk played two in Miami, one with the New York Jets, then three more with the Dolphins. Turk missed the 2005 season after straining his groin in training camp, then averaged 38.3 yards per punt last year with St. Louis, his best since 1998, the last year he made the Pro Bowl.

He's always aimed at averaging 40 yards per punt and he still feels healthy enough to do it.

"I've flirted with it," Turk said. "I should've done it last year. I hope I can do it this year."

Stanley has been the Texans punter for five seasons and averaged 36.7 yards last season.

Houston coach Gary Kubiak isn't close to picking a starter.

"It's a good battle between them," he said. "We've got to get to the point where we can get them in 11-on-11 competitive environment with the rush and everything, but it's a heck of a battle."

Even if he doesn't land the job, Turk is confident he'll end up playing somewhere. He only wishes his brother could be there with him.

"I think about him every day," Turk said. "Whenever a guy has played so many roles and such a big part of your life, you can't help it."

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