North Hall High senior Bobby Epps doesn’t let his role as a football player define who he is, even though it is a major part of his life.
The Trojans’ senior standout at fullback and linebacker is counted on heavily in North Hall’s chase for the Class AAA state title. A three-year letterman for North Hall, this season he leads the Trojans with touchdowns (23), receiving yards (337 yards) and stands second on the team with 845 rushing yards.
But above all else he is a scholar.
Epps, who stands 6-feet tall and weighs 210 pounds, carries a 4.3 GPA, putting him in the top 10 of his senior class, and will graduate from high school after fall semester. He wants to get a jump start on his future and will take college classes in the spring semester at Gainesville State College as he begins his pursuit of becoming a surgeon one day.
But right now football is an equal priority. He wants to leave a legacy behind for his senior class to be remembered by at North Hall. He’s played varsity all four years of high school, and already been a part of two quarterfinal teams.
This season, he wants much more.
"For the seniors, it’s our last season here at North Hall, and we just want to make the best of it," Epps said.
Epps has always taken academics as seriously as playing sports. In fact, he’s never made a B in his life. He is blessed by the fact that school has always been relatively easy. He rarely has to crack a book to make such high marks.
"My brother (Tommy Epps) is two years older than me, and when I found out I got grades for how I did in school I always wanted to do better than him," Epps said. "To be honest, it just comes natural; I really don’t like studying."
Many people would find it strange that a hard-hitting football player would also be a star student. Some might consider hard-nosed football players more likely to skip class instead of sitting at the front of the class. Epps clearly breaks the stereotype.
To graduate early, Epps’ academic workload is more intensive than most students. He says his hardest class in his final semester of high school is physics.
But this honor student sees academics and sports working hand-in-hand.
"I was stressed early with all the work and playing football at the same time," Epps said. "But really, I just got used to the grind.
"I just try to stay motivated and when I’m in class I do the best I can, and when I am playing football I also do my best to help the team win."
"He’s just a good boy," North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. "He works hard in class and on the field."
Epps, who also plans on playing football in college, decided when he was a junior that he wanted to go the medical school route with his life. He’s already started getting some experience around the hospital as a volunteer.
Last summer, he spent time in a role he described as a "glorified nurses’ assistant." In the spring, he hopes to spend some of his free time "shadowing" doctors.
Not only is Epps one of the most dedicated players on North Hall’s football team, but he’s also one of the strongest. He squats 415 pounds, power cleans 300 pounds and bench presses 275.
"Bobby’s a big, strong kid, and he has great hands," Christmas added.
He’s also pretty quick for a fullback. In North Hall’s first round playoff game against McNair he had touchdown runs of 34 and 42 yards where he showed off his ability to sprint past the secondary. Some of his biggest plays this season have come via the Trojans’ trademark trap play, or a screen pass to get him out in the open field.
"He’s a really hard-nosed player," North Hall linebacker Thomas Sprague said. "He’s worked hard to get where he is."
Epps prefers the idea of playing fullback over linebacker in college, but he still hasn’t decided where he is going to attend next year. He did attend Navy’s game against Air Force on Sept. 29 in Annapolis, Maryland.
"I’ll let all that take care of itself once the season is over," Epps said.
Epps, who has 42 tackles and five for a loss this season, is fully recovered now from offseason surgery for a torn labrum. A common injury in tennis, he dislocated his shoulder against both Chestatee and McNair as a junior before learning he would need surgery.
After having surgery, he had to rehabilitate for the next five months. He also attended physical therapy twice each week to regain his strength.
"We were a little worried if he would be able to return to full strength this season," Christmas said. "His work ethic is great and he just puts it all out there, and that’s why he’s been able to excel."
He’s shown he’s back to full speed this season with multiple 100-yard rushing efforts, including 137-yards in the win against Chestatee that sealed the Trojans’ second straight Region 7-AAA championship.
Now he wants to do his part to bring North Hall a state title before devoting the next 10 years of his life to becoming a doctor.
"That’s been our plan all along — to win the state championship," Epps said.