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Wyoming sophomore Marcus Epps climbs ladder to team captain

September 1, 2016 GMT

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Cowboys have a sophomore safety who last season was named a freshman all-American, represented his team at Mountain West Media Days in July and was named a preseason all-conference player.

The Wyoming Cowboys have a sophomore safety who is a team captain.

Remarkably, they are not the same sophomore safeties.

Marcus Epps was surprised to hear his name included with the team captains Saturday before Wyoming’s final scrimmage of fall camp.

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Especially considering he came to Wyoming as a walk-on.

“I didn’t expect to be captain,” he said, “but it’s a great honor, and I’m proud that my teammates voted for me and that they think of me as a captain.”

Combined with Andrew Wingard, the preseason all-conference safety, Wyoming has no shortage of young leadership at the back of its defense.

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“It’s awesome,” Epps said. “It just shows the direction this team is headed. We have a lot of young players, and I think we’re just going to continue to get better.”

In fact, Epps won’t even be Wyoming’s only sophomore team captain this season, as quarterback Josh Allen was also honored Saturday.

“We have a bright future for the years to come,” Epps told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2c81d4L). “We’ve got a few years left, so we should just continue to get better and better.”

As a starting quarterback, Allen’s inclusion isn’t all that surprising.

But being named a captain as a former walk-on player? That doesn’t happen every day.

“First of all, a sophomore as a captain, that’s a very rare thing,” said senior center Chase Roullier, also a captain. “Then a walk-on as a captain in itself is a very rare thing. So to put those two together, it’s a pretty awesome experience for all of us and for him in particular.”

Roullier is a second-year captain for Wyoming, as is linebacker Lucas Wacha.

“As a senior this year, I think I’ll feel a little more comfortable with being more of a vocal leader,” Roullier said. “I know last year, I didn’t always take the vocal role of it as well as I should have. I’m a pretty quiet guy, and being a junior, those two things put together, it made it so I wasn’t quite as vocal as I should’ve been.

“But this year is another chance to be more of a vocal leader out there, and I’m looking forward to that.”

Wacha didn’t have that problem as a junior captain.

“I’m a little too vocal sometimes,” Wacha said. “Sometimes I say stuff I probably shouldn’t say, but that’s what captains do, and I’ll put my arm around somebody when they need it and that’s what captains are for. So I’m really grateful that they take their time and actually look at it and did vote me a captain again.”

In addition to Epps, Wacha, Roullier and Allen, tight end Jacob Hollister also was named a captain.

Leadership will be particularly important for the Cowboys this year, as a young team attempts to avoid repeating a 10-loss season.

“Once you get named a captain, or something like that, you can’t really have those down days where you’re kind of down in the dumps and dragging behind,” Hollister said. “So it’s just important to bring the energy every day and pick everybody up.”

For the record, Epps said he didn’t vote for himself. He selected Wacha and fellow senior linebacker D.J. May.

“He’s the Mike,” Epps said of Wacha. “He’s the middle ’backer, so he runs the defense, basically ... so he’s definitely a captain, a leader.”

Wacha views Epps the same way.

“I mean, he’s the captain of that secondary,” Wacha said. “He’s out there every day grinding. He’s a smart kid. He knows a bunch of stuff, and he’s a great young man, and I’m looking forward to playing with him this year.”

Epps, a Los Angeles native, never even considered being named captain when he moved to Laramie.

He just wanted to play.

“The first thing I was thinking about was just coming in and proving myself, working hard and earning a scholarship,” he said.

He redshirted in 2014. In 2015, he earned a starting spot in Wyoming’s secondary by the season opener.

Epps’ 7.5 total tackles per game and 59 overall ranked fifth in the Mountain West. He led the team with two interceptions and had four pass breakups and a forced fumble.

By spring, he was in line for a scholarship.

“I know that he’s a big-time leader for all those guys on the defense, and especially just a leader by example through the summer and stuff like that,” Hollister said. “He’s put in a lot of hard work.”

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com