Nothing was ever handed to Marcus Epps. But that didn’t stop him from becoming a starting safety on one of the best defenses in the NFL.
How did he get here?
Despite playing on both sides of the ball at Edison High School in California, he did not receive a single Division I offer.
“I wasn’t heavily recruited, or really recruited at all coming out of high school,” Epps said in 2019.
He considered going the JUCO route, but later got a call from the University of Wyoming to join them as a walk-on.
So Epps made the 1,061-mile trek from Huntington Beach, California to Laramie, Wyoming to walk on to the Cowboys football team.
But it wasn’t easy.
“It’s been a journey,” Epps told Dave Spadaro on the Eagles Insider Podcast. “I’ve always just kept my head down and kept grinding. I always knew what I was working toward.”
Epps redshirted his freshman year at Wyoming, using the time to hone his craft, build his body, and acclimate to the college game.
The following season, he got his first chance at playing time and never looked back.
As a sophomore, he played in all 11 games and ranked third on the team in tackles. From there, Epps kept chipping away, getting better and better each season. For each of his last three years at Wyoming, he was voted a team captain.
“I felt that the reason why I was voted captain then was because my teammates saw the way I worked, saw the way I carried myself, and came to work every day.”
During his senior season, he was named a finalist for the 2018 Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation’s best walk-on. But an exceptional college career did not make Epps a shoo-in for NFL stardom.
Ahead of the NFL Draft, he was projected as a “priority free agent”, meaning he wasn’t expected to be drafted at all.
Pro scouts had a long list of concerns about Epps, including:
- “Undersized as an NFL safety”
- “Extremely short arms limit the ability to play the throw”
- “Slow foot response to route breaks”
- “Makeup burst is uninspiring”
- “Will take the worst of it as a tackler”
The last point, especially, is funny if you’ve ever watched Marcus Epps play an NFL game. His bone-crushing hits are a sight to behold.
The Minnesota Vikings ended up selecting Epps in the 6th round (191st overall). Again, there were no guarantees, and his underdog mentality drove him forward.
“I always have that chip on my shoulder, and I always feel like I have to prove myself. And even if I prove myself, I have to re-prove myself.”
Epps saw limited playing time in his first few months with the Vikings. Then, in November of his rookie season, something strange happened.
The Philadelphia Eagles cut safety Andrew Sendejo – who they signed as a free agent from the Vikings earlier that year. When Sendejo hit waivers, the Vikings picked him up.
To make room on the roster, they waived Marcus Epps. A day later, the Eagles picked him up.
Between the two teams, Epps played just 111 defensive snaps as a rookie. Since then, he’s slowly carved out a role for himself, spending less time on special teams and more on defense.
His year-by-year game log illustrates his progression:
- 2019: 15 games played, 0 starts
- 2020: 14 games played, 5 starts
- 2021: 16 games played, 3 starts
- 2022: 17 games played, 17 starts
In 2022, Epps cemented himself as a key part of the Eagles’ top-notch defense. With a career-high 94 total tackles, he’s helped solidify the defensive backfield alongside C. J. Gardner-Johnson.
It’s been quite a journey. From high school to the NFL, Marcus Epps has fought hard to prove himself every step of the way. But he doesn’t dwell on the path he’s taken.
“I try not to get back and think about how far I’ve come. I try to just, every day, come in and work toward where I want to be, and where I want to go. Because that’s how you stay hungry and keep from getting complacent.”
That hunger has served Epps well. And his perseverance is an example to anyone fighting to prove they belong.
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