When Tony Epperson was a junior at Park City High School, he won the job of punter. It was mainly a side job to his real passion to play safety and wide receiver.
It was the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder's physicality that eventually won him a scholarship to play for Weber State.
"We had tryouts, which pretty much meant everybody got in a line and kicked the ball," Epperson said. "I kicked one and the coach [Brandon Matich] said, 'You're our punter.' "
However, the promise that Epperson brought to the Wildcat defense was eventually buried by multiple injuries. And now the safety who was an All-Conference Big Sky player as a sophomore has become a punter.
The senior and all-conference academic has grudgingly accepted his role as Weber State opens its 2013 season at home Saturday against Stephen F. Austin. He doesn't like it, but it is better than not playing at all.
And, anyway, when Epperson hurt his knee after six games last year, he was the nation's leading punter at 48 yards a kick. Not too bad for someone who has never taken punting seriously until now.
"I'm still going through it, honestly," said Epperson about the mental adjustment. "It's weird. I miss it. I've played the game my whole life."
An arm injury during spring ball was the final straw on Epperson's playing career on defense. In six games in 2012, Epperson had 42 total tackles, an interception as well as a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
"When you've got a 6-4, 220-pound pretty good athlete, you like to see him out there," WSU coach Jody Sears said. "When it comes to field position now, he's an unbelievable weapon. So we've got to focus on that."
As for kickers' reputations for being a bit squirrely, Sears said, "Hey, I'm a little squirrely. That cat right there is a true ballplayer."
Following spring football and the ensuing surgery, for the first time Epperson focused his energies on punting technique and maybe achieving something as a punter."I have a lot of people around me thinking I can go to the next level," he said. "I'm not banking on it, but it's something to work for.
"If I wasn't punting, I don't know what I'd be doing, hanging out and that would be worse. I'll take three or four plays [a game] over none."
Stephen F. Austin at Weber State
O Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • None
Radio • 1430 AM/103.1 FM
Series History • First meeting