Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Road Less Traveled to The 'Catdome. (Lucas Jepson)

In 2011, Lucas Jepson was a newcomer to the Linfield Wildcat roster. No, Lucas wasn't an 18 year old right out of high school, but the 2006 Aloha High graduate finally found his home in the 'Catdome after a long and winding road.  All that Lucas was looking for was an opportunity to prove he could make an impact after years of dealing with a personal loss and for a program to call home.

Lucas didn't come into the year as a starter but once his number was called early in the season, the WR took the opportunity and ran with it. In fact, Jepson's impact was so strong during 2011 that his teammates voted him "Newcomer Of The Year" after leading the 'Cats with 9 touchdown receptions and was selected as an NWC 2nd team offensive performer.

His story is one of a small segment of Wildcats that took the road less traveled to get to Linfield. Each of these stories are different, but with each, you'll learn about the adversity, perseverance, and self-discovery and that these players faced in both their journey to Linfield and during their time as a Wildcat.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson.  View Brad's 2011 Linfield Photo Gallery Here.

#2 Lucas Jepson, Wide Receiver, Junior (Beaverton, Or)

All throughout high school I knew about Linfield. I had a handful of coaches play and coach here, so it was always well known around Aloha. I graduated in 2006 from Aloha High School and had originally planned to go to Cabrillo Junior College in California where one of my coaches had played. I went and visited with two of my friends and teammates, but some things fell through and it ended up not working out. Then, I headed to Mesa State College in Grand Junction Colorado with a friend of mine to play. It was a decision that was made very quickly and not thought through all the way. I just knew I wanted to play, and there was an opportunity in Colorado. I spent one term there, and just couldn't see myself spending four years there and ended up coming back home.

During the next year I spent my time working to save up money to go down to Cabrillo and play. That was the driving force because all I ever wanted to do is play. Early in 2007, my grandfather passed away. I didn't go to the funeral because it was too much for me. My brother had my mother put his business card in his grave at his funeral. I didn't have anything to put so I made him a promise he was going to see me play big time college football, not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and that promise. He was with me and always has been because I ended up down in California at the start of 2008 at Cabrillo and in the fall finally got the chance to play again for the first time in two years. I finished my two years down there and looked for a place to play closer to home. I wasn’t heavily recruited out of my Junior college, the two seasons I spent down there didn’t go as well as I had planned, but am thankful for the opportunity and experience that I gained.

The three schools that recruited me were Pacific, Eastern Oregon, and Linfield. I couldn’t see myself at either Pacific or Eastern, but I knew about Linfield from my days in high school. I took a visit and knew that this was a place that I could succeed not only on the field but more importantly in the classroom. Josh Hill and I had a plan to go wherever the other one went. It switched from Portland State to Linfield. I applied, but there were some administration issues with certain courses that I took at previous schools and in turn was not accepted. Josh got in. It was a shock to me and it hit hard but I talked with admissions and they told me what I had to do to get accepted the following year. I then tried to walk on at Portland State but through a long process it ended up not working out.

I spent 2010-2011 just going to school at Portland State. There was a brief time where I didn’t think I was going to play again. I thought I was done. That was a hard concept to grasp considering that an athlete is all I've ever been, all I've ever been known for. Throughout that year, I continued to work with admissions at Linfield to make sure I had the best shot at getting accepted this time. I had my high school head coach Chris Casey who played and coached here at Linfield write my letter of recommendation and to be honest, without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. He has helped me tremendously and I am truly thankful for everything he has done. In May of 2011, I got the packet from Linfield saying I was accepted. The first person I told was Josh, and let him know that I was accepted and that we had work to do that off-season. I let the coaches know and thanked everybody for all the help that they provided me. I had been training the whole time with my brother who has put so much time and effort into me, making me the athlete I am today, and without him I don’t know where I'd be or how I would measure up to the competition. I am truly blessed for him and what he has done for me.

Once the acceptance letter came, I found a new energy for training going into the season. I had no clue how I was going to fit in or how I was going to play being out of football for a year, and this was the second time I had extended breaks between seasons. I started going to 7 on 7's and got to know some of the guys. Deidre Wiersma, who helped me learn the basic concepts of the passing game, helped me out a lot. I was able to come into camp with a knowledge that most of the new guys didn’t have. Once camp hit, the rest played out for itself and I was able to do whatever I could to help the team win. The main reason Linfield was so appealing to me, besides the fact that they are rich in tradition and the ability to get a great education, but it is a place I can play and play in front of my parents who hadn't seen me play in five years before this season. Those two people have supported me through the long path that I have taken to get where I am at today. I don’t know where I would be without my parents in my life. I love them and am incredibly blessed to have them in my life.

My experience here has been like no other. I enjoyed the time I spent at the other schools I attended and learned a lot, especially in California where I grew as a person more than anything. I learned how strong I am internally and the potential that I have in playing football. Being here at Linfield, you see how it is definitely a family environment. The whole team gets behind one another and has only one thing on their mind, to get better every single day, and focus on winning a national championship. We all want it and we all work for it. We all want each other to succeed. The coaching staff is unique to any coaching staff I have ever played for. It reminds me of my high school coaching staff where they are the hardest working coaches hands down. Nobody puts in more time, effort, and work than these coaches.

As a transfer student there is always a big worry about how the guys will look at you, but they took me in like I had been here for three years, like a family member would. My first year was an amazing year and I’m looking forward to what the 2012 year can be for all of us.

Another thing that stands out in Linfield Football is the streak we hold. You don’t really realize the magnitude of the streak until you are a part of it. It's truly something amazing and you realize when you get a group of guys who are more worried about the team and not themselves then anything is possible, and that’s why the streak lives and Linfield is always in the running for a title. This next year will show all those things including a run to that title. No one deserves it more than these coaches, the guys on this team and the school. I've realized that Catdome is a special place and not many places compare to running out onto that field. I truly want to thank again everyone who has helped me get where I am at. I could not have done what I have without any of those people. From my family, all my coaches, all the guys I've played with, the staff and faculty everywhere I've been and especially at Linfield in helping me get in here, I thank you. I try and represent you all every time I step onto that field. I'm more than thankful for this opportunity to be here and be a part of the tradition. I'm thankful for all I've been through, the good and the bad, and it has helped build me into a better person.

To my grandpa, I know you're looking down on us, and I know you've been with me every step of the way. I couldn't have done it without you. Hopefully I am making you proud on this journey. I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep that promise. Before every game after the national anthem I pray and have a conversation with him. I tell him we’re here, tell him how much I miss and love him and that it's for him. Every time I reach the end zone I tap my shoes which have his initials on them and kiss the sky. It's a reminder of him and of where I have come from: To keep fighting, to keep working and to never stop believing. That's the backbone of my last name. That's something I'll never forget. I love and miss you grandpa every single day and always will.

-Lucas Jepson

1 comment:

Chris said...

Lucas, that photo says it all about you and what it means to play at Linfield! I love to tell my friends and family how our wide receivers just out fight the D. You are truly a Cat! Looking for you guys to light it up next year. Tough schedule but all things run through the Catdome!