Jennifer Hoffer - Staff Writer -
Willie Epps, now a graduate student at Southern, said he has achieved a plethora of accomplishments and is blessed with the opportunity he has been given to play for the Owls football team the past five years. Epps, who played four years at wide receiver, did say however that football was not his first love.
“I actually was a basketball player at first,” Epps said. “But my mom signed my brother and myself up for football when I was nine years old.”
Epps played football at Brien McMahon in his hometown, Norwalk, and after graduating in 2008 went to prep school at Bridgton Academy in Maine.
“The athletic directors and administrators were all involved in all the varsity sports,” Epps said. “I had a great time in high school.”
Epps said he realized he was good when he saw how much faster he was than the other players.
“I was picked because I was fast,” Epps said. “But once I just started playing and actually starting to see the potential I had, I knew I was falling in love with the game.”
Epps said he chose Southern because of the proximity of the school and his home and also based on the conversation he had with offensive coach Tom Godek.
“Godek actually came up to me in Maine at one of our columbines,” Epps said. “I liked what he was talking about and I also liked the idea of being near my hometown.”
Epps was also close with his teammates, especially fellow wideout Jayson Holt, who he shared a lot in common with.
Holt, now a senior, formed a close bond with Epps on and off the field. Holt said that Epps was one of the first friends he made his freshman year.
“My freshman year we both redshirted,” Holt said. “At that time I used to play quarterback and he was wide receiver, so I used to throw him the ball during practice. Each year we got closer, worked out in the weight room together and also off the field.”
Epps’s lessons, though, came from head coach Rich Cavanaugh. Epps said Cavanaugh was someone he could rely on and has instilled good ethics for life to both him and the rest of the team.
Epps said Cavanaugh is a very hard working man and he respects him tremendously. He has a goal-oriented attitude and a passion for not only the game but also leading the young men in life, Epps said.
“He taught us the definition of work, how you work hard at things that are important like getting our degree first, and football came second,” Epps said.
Cavanaugh acknowledges and said that Epps is a competent student athlete and speaks very highly of him.
“He epitomizes what you look for as a head coach,” Cavanaugh said. “You would want all your players to aspire to be like Willie Epps because he’s the total package; he is a student first and athlete second.”
Cavanaugh also said Epps has immersed himself in the student life at Southern, being a resident advisor.
“He really gets the most out of every day,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s got to be the best student he can be and you could always count on Willie to perform at a very high level.”
Epps motivated attitude and positive outlook in life is something that was reinforced and carried from high school into college.
“The traits of Willie were here when he got here,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s just who is. He has matured as a young man. He’s tremendous.”
Statistically, Epps ranks as one of the best to ever put on an Owls uniform at the receiver position. He is third all-time in Southern history with 26 touchdown receptions, second all-time with 2,868 receiving yards and fourth all-time in receptions with 147. Epps was also selected to the All-Northeast-10 Conference team two years in a row.
Epps is working on his master’s degree now. When he was an undergraduate, Epps said he majored in sports management and recreational leisure.
“If nothing works out with football with all the tryouts and the columbines, I’ll just continue on going back to school,” Epps said.