Former Wyoming Walk-On Marcus Epps Super Bowl Bound
* University of Wyoming press release
LARAMIE -- Playing in a Super Bowl is something that every football player dreams of but very few get the opportunity to live out that dream. This Sunday, former Wyoming Cowboy captain Marcus Epps will get that opportunity as the starting free safety for the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
For Epps, it is the latest accomplishment in a string of career football accomplishments that can be traced back to when he joined the University of Wyoming Football program in the summer of 2014. Epps came to Wyoming from Edison High School in Los Angeles, Calif., as a walk-on. He was one of the first walk-ons in the first season of the Craig Bohl era at Wyoming. Epps would prove the value of developing walk-ons into scholarship players, and that outstanding Wyoming walk-on program continues today.
Over his college career at Wyoming, Epps would become one of the all-time great Cowboys. His road to being where he is today -- preparing to play in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz. -- is an amazing story of hard work, perseverance and believing in himself. Throughout his time as a Cowboy, his teammates and coaches would often talk about how much he was respected by everyone on the team for his work ethic and how he handled himself on and off the field. That respect led to him becoming the first Cowboy in the modern era of Wyoming Football to be voted a team captain by his teammates three consecutive years.
While Epps always believed in himself and his abilities, not even he foresaw the respect he would earn during his time at UW and that was reflected in a comment by Epps during his senior season of 2018.
“To have my teammates see and appreciate all the work I put in for this program and this team, it’s awesome to be able to lead such a great group of people,” said Epps. “I didn’t envision myself as a three-time captain when I came here, but I definitely had the mindset coming in as a walk-on that I just needed an opportunity. Coach Bohl and his staff gave me that opportunity and I made the most of it.”
As Sunday’s big game approaches, two of the Cowboy coaches most responsible for bringing Epps to the University of Wyoming reflected on their former player. The first is head coach Craig Bohl.
“Marcus is an individual who is marked by determination, resolve and ability,” said Bohl. “It’s exciting to see him playing on the biggest stage in football at the Super Bowl. We’ll all be anxious to watch him and wish him all the best.”
Another member of the Wyoming coaching staff who was directly involved in connecting with Epps out of high school and encouraging him to come to the University of Wyoming as a walk-on was current Executive Director of Football Recruiting and Running Backs Coach Gordie Haug. Haug was Wyoming’s Director of Recruiting in 2014 when Epps joined the program in the first season of the Bohl era.
“Marcus is probably the hardest working player we’ve had here,” said Haug. “He really bought into our program and understood what it would take to get us to the top of the Mountain West. He added a lot to the culture within our team and probably helped start the culture change with his work ethic. Everybody else on the team respected him and looked to him as a leader.”
Epps redshirted his freshman season of 2014, but in 2015 he recorded the first of many football accomplishments as a Cowboy. He started his very first college game as a redshirt freshman in the season opener against the University of North Dakota. Epps missed the second game of the ‘15 season against Eastern Michigan due to an injury. That would be the only game in his four-year college career that he would miss. He returned to the starting lineup in Week 3 at Washington State and would go on to start every game he played in during his college career at Wyoming -- 50 career starts from 2015-18.
Epps not only started the 11 games he played in as a redshirt freshman, but he ranked third on the team in total tackles, with 83, and also led the Pokes in interceptions with two as he earned a scholarship. Of his 83 tackles, 59 were solo stops and 24 were assisted tackles. He ranked fifth in the Mountain West and No. 39 in the nation in solo tackles per game at 5.4 and ranked 12th in the MW in total tackles (7.5 tackles per game).
As his sophomore season of 2016 began, it became apparent that Epps not only was a talented athlete but he also possessed special leadership skills as his teammates elected him a team captain as a sophomore. The 2016 season was of course one of the most successful in Cowboy Football history. Wyoming posted an 8-6 record, won the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference, hosted the MW Championship Game as the highest ranked team in the conference and earned a bid to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.
Epps finished the 2016 season with 111 tackles, which ranked him second on the ‘16 team and ranked as the 25th best single-season total in school history at the time. He also tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and led the Cowboys with six pass breakups. Epps recorded 13 tackles in the Mountain West Championship game and added 12 tackles in the regular-season meeting vs. San Diego State that sent the Pokes to the championship game.
The 2017 season saw Epps once again be voted a team captain by his teammates. He was a leader of a Cowboy defense that ranked No. 9 in the nation in scoring defense, No. 13 in pass defense and No. 23 in total defense. He recorded a personal single-season best of four interceptions in 2017. Epps and his Cowboy teammates posted their second consecutive eight-win season, going 8-5, and won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
As his senior season of 2018 approached, he was voted team captain for an amazing third time. The Cowboys earned bowl eligibility again in 2018, posting a 6-6 record. In fact, under his leadership, Wyoming was bowl eligible all three years he was a voted a team captain and made consecutive bowl appearances in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl and the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, as well as hosting the Mountain West Championship Game in 2016.
Epps was voted one of three national finalists for the 2018 Burlsworth Trophy that is presented each year to the nation’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
As his college career came to a close, Epps was already focused on his next goal -- to play in the NFL. On Saturday, April 27, 2019, the Minnesota Vikings made that dream a reality for Epps, selecting him as the 19th pick in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Epps would make the Vikings roster in 2019 and played in eight games for Minnesota, but in November of that season the Vikings put Epps on waivers. The Philadelphia Eagles claimed him off waivers one day later, and he has been with the Eagles ever since.
The now four-year NFL veteran has had his best season as a professional in 2022, starting every game for the Eagles at safety -- 17 regular-season games and two playoff games. Epps had 94 total tackles and six pass break-ups in the regular season and added seven more tackles in two playoff games, entering Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Asked if when he first met Epps he would have ever thought one day Epps would be playing in the Super Bowl, Haug replied, “I wouldn’t have ever said he wouldn’t achieve that dream. Based on how focused and how mature Marcus was I thought he would always be successful.”
“I think Marcus is a guy who has always had a chip on his shoulder and continues to carry that chip on his shoulder even though he’s enjoying the success he’s having,” continued Haug. “He understands that there is somebody out there working just as hard as he is and he needs to continue to work harder. That is what has got him to where he is today.”
How exciting will it be for Haug to watch Epps playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday? “It will be extremely exciting,” said Haug. “To be able to see a good person, like he is, to live out his dreams and showcase his skills on that stage is going to be special.”
Epps never limited himself on his road to success. In a story written this past September by Zach Berman, who covers the Philadelphia Eagles for The Athletic, Epps was quoted as saying, “The way I see it is I’m always going to bet on me regardless of the situation. If you want something in life, you’ve got to get it. No matter if the odds are stacked against you, you control what you do when you wake up in the morning.”
You know we’ll all be pulling for you on Sunday, Marcus, and we too will also bet on you regardless of the situation!
- Wyoming Career Year-by-Year
-Summer 2014: Marcus Epps joins Wyoming Football as a walk-on and redshirts the 2014 season.
-2015 Season: Earns a starting spot at safety in the season opener and starts all 11 games he plays in 2015, while earning a football scholarship.
-2016 Season: Voted a team captain as a sophomore, he helps lead Wyoming to an 8-6 record, a Mountain West Mountain Division title, a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game and the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl.
-2017 Season: Once again voted a team captain, Epps and his teammates post their second consecutive eight-win season, going 8-5 and winning the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in dominant fashion.
-2018 Season: He becomes the first three-time team captain in the modern era of Cowboy Football. He leads Wyoming to its third consecutive bowl-eligible season during his career.
- College Career Summary
- Epps ranks No. 12 in Wyoming school history in career tackles, with 325, and is tied for No. 6 in career interceptions, with nine.
-He was named one of three national finalists for the 2018 Burlsworth Trophy, which is given annually to the nation’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
-Epps became the first Wyoming Cowboy in the modern era of Cowboy Football to be voted a team captain for three seasons. Only Herbert Brees (1894, ‘95 and ‘96) preceded him in receiving that honor and only Logan Wilson (2017, ‘18 and ‘19) and Sean Chambers (2019, ‘20 and ‘21) have since been named three-time team captains.
- NFL Career Highlights
-2019 NFL Draft: Epps was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings as the 19th pick in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
-2019 Season: After playing eight games for Minnesota, he was put on waivers by the Vikings on Nov. 6. The Philadelphia Eagles claimed Epps off waivers one day later on Nov. 7, and he played the final seven games of the season with Philadelphia.
-2020 season: Epps plays in 14 games and starts five for the Eagles, recording 47 tackles and two interceptions.
-2021 Season: He plays in 16 games and starts three, with 62 tackles and one interception.
-2022 Season: Epps starts all 17 regular-season games plus two playoff games, recording 101 tackles in those 19 games, with six pass break-ups and one forced fumble leading up to Super Bowl LVII.