I missed this the other day in the FWST. Derek went to school with my son and not only is he a good athlete, but a good kid as well. Hopefully one day you’ll see him in a NFL Uniform.
When Derek Epperson goes to work, a lot of people usually head for the concession stands to grab a bite to eat or something to drink.Such is the life of a punter. However, it’s a craft that has allowed Epperson to stand out.
As Baylor’s punter, Epperson is one of the best, finishing ninth in the nation with an average of 44.27 yards per punt. He was also a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which honors the country’s top punter.
While Epperson’s job may seem mundane to some, Baylor’s coaches and players are keenly aware of his value.
“Having a person like that who can control the field position for you is critical,” coach Art Briles said. “He’s a good punter and an athletic player for us.”
Although he doesn’t score touchdowns or kick field goals or extra points, the Keller High School graduate knows games are often determined by field position. Last year 16 of his 49 punts carried for 50 yards or more, and 14 were placed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
“The average fan probably doesn’t notice a pooch punt situation when you’re pinning the other team back and giving them a long field to work with,” Epperson said. “Or if I’m trying to get the ball out to the other side of the field so our defense has a 70-yard field to work with instead of maybe a 40-yard field.
“I definitely take pride in what I do. I don’t really care if people notice what I do or not, because I just like doing it and it’s something that I try to do the best at every time I step out on the field.”
A converted soccer player, Epperson has been booming punts as far back as he can remember.
During his junior year at Keller, he averaged 42 yards per punt and increased that to 43 yards as a senior.
Epperson has been so effective that he’s looking forward to Baylor’s Nov. 28 game against Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. He wants his chance to punt the ball and hit the $1.2 billion stadium’s overhead video board.
“Sorry, Jerry Jones, but I’m definitely going to be trying to hit that [scoreboard] in warmups to see what kind of leg I’ve got,” Epperson said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to hit it.
“We’ll see what happens. That should be a good experience.”
Many of Epperson’s punts are so high that Briles has forbidden him from punting inside Baylor’s brand-new, $11 million indoor practice facility, which has a roof that’s 59 feet high.
“The roof is too low,” Epperson said. “Our guys hit it on kickoffs, and some of the deep snappers when they’re messing around, the ball’s almost going up to the roof when they punt it.
“So I know for sure if I start punting in there I’ll start scaring up the roof. During recruiting season you don’t want to take people in there to show it to them and there’s holes all over the roof because the punter’s been working out in there.”
A 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior, Epperson was on the Big 12’s first-team All-Academic team last year. He also is again on the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list.
Accolades, though, don’t seem to faze Epperson.
“It’s nice to have those, but I just want to fly under the radar and not really have anybody know who I am,” he said. “But this does give me extra motivation to keep working hard during the season so I can try and stay on those lists after the season’s over, too.”