In professional sports, players have what is known as “contract years”, the season prior to a player hitting free agency. It is often said a player will put more stock into said year, knowing that good performance could lead to a big payday.
If there were a high school equivalent of a “contract year”, Michael Epps knew it would be his senior year. Aside from potentially impressing recruiters, the senior running back/linebacker at MacArthur was just happy to be able to play after missing most of last year for disciplinary reasons.
“After last year, I said, ‘I’ve got to be a leader when I come back,’” Epps said.
Epps is someone whose actions often speak much louder than his words, and throughout the shortened off-season, his commitment to improvement spoke volumes to his coaches.
“He made every summer workout, he’s at the front of every single sprint we run,” MacArthur head coach Brett Manning said. “He’s put in a lot of work and I’m really proud of how he’s really turned his whole attitude around and become one of our harder workers.”
That work ethic has paid off already, as Epps has started at linebacker and seen some time at running back. In Week 1 against Eisenhower, Epps ran for 54 yards on 8 rushes. He hopes a big senior season will serve as inspiration for younger players, while also vaulting him into the consciousness of colleges.
“I want to go college, play football,” Epps said.
While he might see more playing time as a linebacker, his favorite player to watch and emulate is a running back, and who, like Epps, lets his play do the talking: Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry.
“Nobody can tackle him,” Epps said.
Epps said he does want to set examples for the younger players through his deeds. And so far, he’s proven that you don’t have to give big speeches to be a team leader. He’s also proving that mistakes and missteps don’t have to define you.