“Football is my true passion and it’s what I think about every day when I wake up.”
Repeated by many athletes but coming from the lips of Linfield’s Lucas Jepson, the statement carries a certain ring and sense of sincerity that suggests it is the undeniable truth.
Athletics have always come naturally for Jepson, who began competing in football somewhere around the third grade. “I also played basketball and baseball and I was always a three-sport athlete all the way through high school,” the senior recalls.
Most athletes find inspiration to play within someone or something that has greatly impacted their life and who they are as a whole. For Jepson, his motivation to be the best comes from his late grandfather, who passed away in 2007.
Jepson’s pregame routine continually reminds him what he is playing for. As he explains, “I go through team meetings, then go off and pray, then always have a conversation with my grandpa.”
The wide receiver’s other family members provide additional support. Jepson says it’s because of them that he is the athlete he is today. “My parents taught me how to be strong and battle through everything. My brother prepared me physically and mentally,” he says.
Though coming to Linfield was his initial plan, strapping on pads and pulling on a Wildcats jersey did not become reality after graduating from Aloha High School. A detour of sorts took him to two other schools – Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo., and Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif. – before Jepson sought to carry his career forward with a different program.
“Meeting the Linfield coaches played a big role in the decision and I felt like it was a good fit because of the overall family environment,” Jepson says.
“The opportunity to go out and do what you love,” was another enticing aspect of Linfield’s program, however it was not the key factor, hinting that Jepson may have had Wildcat blood in him long before college.
“My high school coach (Chris Casey) played and coached here and that really had a big impact on my decision as well,” he says. Casey, of the Class of 1982, preceded a successful high school coaching career with assistant coaching jobs at Linfield and Whitworth.
“Lucas is a great overall athlete,” he says. “He’s a guy who has always been a hard worker.”
A second-team all-Northwest Conference selection in 2011, Jepson is amongst the team leaders in every receiving category and currently shares the team-lead in receiving touchdowns with three. His 52.5 receiving yards per game is second on the squad and his 14.8 yards per catch ranks seventh in the NWC.
“Lucas’ big play ability is something we had been missing in the past,” says quarterback Mickey Inns, noting Jepson’s contributions to the offense.
While Jepson features a knack for making game-changing plays, his strong work ethic results in him being one of the more well-rounded players on the squad. “He’s definitely one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Inns says, “Lucas has improved on every part of his game, especially route-running and blocking.”
Casey echoes Inns’ remarks. Jepson always was “a relentless trainer and off-season worker. He’s one of the best I have coached in 31 years.”
Graduating from high school in 2006, Jepson holds seniority over almost every player on the team, a trait he uses in a positive way. “He’s a little older and we always give him a tough time about that,” Inns says jokingly.
According to Jepson, the game should always be played from the perspective that the team comes first, and personal goals should be put on the back burner. “You have to take it one game at a time and you can’t really stress over it,” he says, sounding like a coach. “The team goal is to win a national championship, but we take it game-by-game, keep working hard, and believe in ourselves.”
With graduation looming in the spring, Jepson remains optimistic for his future. By no means is he ready to give up athletics after the 2012 season concludes. “It’s always been my dream to take football as far as I can go,” Jepson says, adding, “whether it be the NFL, the Canadian league or a semi-pro team, my goal is to keep playing as long as I can.”
With his grandfather watching from above, and the rich support from his earthly family, Jepson’s talents and strengths as a player and person will undoubtedly carry him to the next level.
-- Evan O'Kelly '13