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Connections: Marcus Epps takes great pride in playing for 'the outlaws of the NFL'


Antonio Pierce has been familiar with Marcus Epps' game for awhile now.

Before Pierce and Epps united on the 2023 Raiders defense, they were foes dating back in the Southern California football world. While Pierce was the head coach of Long Beach Poly High School nearly a decade ago, Epps was the starting safety at Edison High School – as the Los Angeles, California, native transferred to the Orange County school to conclude his prep career.

Following high school, Epps walked on at University of Wyoming, where he played four seasons. He was named a 2018 finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation's top walk-on – having totaled eight pass deflections and 5.5 tackles for loss that season. He compiled nine career interceptions at Wyoming, putting him on the NFL radar to eventually be a late round pick for the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 NFL Draft.

But before he was on the NFL's radar, he landed on Pierce's. The then-ASU defensive coordinator had several opportunities to see Epps clash with Pierce's son, DeAndre, who was a defensive back at Boise State.

"We had a lot of side conversations before this even took place," Pierce said, describing his relationship with Epps before becoming head coach. "A guy who has really come in and brought that mature and winner leadership mentality into our room, into our defense, and really our whole locker room. I mean, you appreciate the maturity that he has, the professionalism that he has, and how he approaches each and every day."

Epps' maturity is certainly prevalent in the locker room. Despite being a hard-hitting player with an aggressive demeanor on the field, he has a soft-spoken, calming presence about him when the helmet comes off. It's a maturity that developed in his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. With a cast of All-Pro defenders surrounding him, he started every game for the Eagles in 2022 – including Super Bowl LVII.

He chose to come back to the West Coast this offseason to sign with the Raiders. He's made an immediate impact his first season in the Silver and Black, helping turn the tide on the defense into becoming one that's top ranked in the NFL. Not to mention also being voted a team captain by peers.

"It's an amazing honor. It's an huge honor for me, especially being new to the team, to be voted team captain," Epps said. "I can't really put it into words, but I've just tried to live up to that. Trying to lead, trying to bring a winning culture. That was the biggest thing for me and that's what I'm here to do and try to continue to do moving forward."

He still has heavy ties to Southern California, operating as the founder and owner of EBS Performance + Fitness in Costa Mesa. The performance center is a passion project to Epps as "something that I wanted to do to give back to younger, inspiring athletes [and] creating a safe space." He started the gym – which specializes in personal training and group fitness classes plus hosts youth football camps – with his personal trainer, Karif Byrd.

The clout the Silver and Black still holds in his hometown remains strong, as he claimed that "the Raiders will always be LA's team." While the team returned back to Oakland before Epps was born, he still remembers hearing tales from his father of going to games back at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Approaching his second game this season against the divisional rival Chargers, Epps believes his team has done a great job of staying focused late in the season. However, while defeating the Chargers is a short term goal for himself, he acknowledged his deeper longterm goal of "bringing greatness" to the Silver and Black.

"Tough, hard-nosed football. Bringing physicality, kind of being the outlaws of the NFL is really what you hear or think of when it comes to the Raiders," said Epps. "That's the mentality."

Other notable connections

  • Raiders assistant special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II spent one season (2021) with the Los Angeles Chargers.
  • Raiders defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was drafted by the Chargers with the team's first-round pick (28th overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft. He compiled 52 solo tackles, 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in four seasons with the Chargers.
  • Raiders cornerback Brandon Facyson signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He totaled 35 tackles, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in three seasons there.
  • Raiders defensive back Jack Jonesis a Long, Beach, California, native and spent two seasons at University of Southern California (USC) from 2016-17.
  • Raiders offensive linemen Andre James and Kolton Miller were teammates from 2015-17 at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
  • Raiders safety Isaiah Pola-Mao played at the University of Southern California (USC) from 2017-21.
  • Chargers defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley spent one season (2018) with the Raiders as a defensive backs coach.
  • Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack was selected in the first round (5th overall) by the Raiders in the 2014 NFL Draft. He played four seasons with the Silver and Black, notching 304 tackles (231 solo), 68 tackles for loss, and 40.5 sacks in 64 starts from 2014-17.

As the Raiders prepare for Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium, view past matchups of the Silver and Black hosting their division rival.

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