Brothers Battle it Out in Annual Rivalry Game

By: Andy Conner Email
By: Andy Conner Email

When the Texas Aggies tackle the Baylor Bears in the annual Battle of the Brazos, this year's rivalry will be a family affair.

Ryan Epperson, the starting punter for the Aggies, will get a shot at his older brother Derek - who is the starting punter for the Bears.

"We're both competitive but we both want each other to do well so, it's a pretty healthy rivalry," said Derek.

Separated by 18 months, Derek signed a letter of intent with Baylor while Ryan was only a sophomore in high school.

Then, when Ryan was a senior, Texas A&M came knocking on his door. He committed to the Aggies after almost heading to the Air Force Academy to play soccer.

"Whenever I finally was deciding to come here, my brother was obviously pretty upset," said Ryan.

Their competitve spirit, however, was not honed on the football field.

Their mom, Laura Epperson, like most mothers, thought youth football would be too dangerous.

Not for derek or ryan, but for the other boys.

"Derek was about 2, 3 inches taller than everybody else when he was a young boy., and I said, 'No, no, no, no, no...too dangerous. He's going to hurt somebody," said Laura.

Derek's soccer background helped him get noticed by high school coaches and punting came naturally for him.

"He tried out as a kicker, and he decided by then that he just wanted to kick, so he started off kicking, and then a coach said to him one day, 'You know, you should think about punting. You've got the right height and size,' and because of goalkeeping, he punted all the time so that was an easy transition for him," said Laura.

Ryan sort of fell into the role after Derek graduated, but now is following in his brother's footsteps.

"In high school, kind of just played football because all my friends played football. I was a big soccer player my whole life, so I grew up playing soccer and whenever I hit high school, I didn't play a position, I just kicked and punted...I was mainly a kicker and I just kind of did punting because no one else did," said Ryan.

"Last year, it was big help just being able to talk to him, how he prepared and like focused, it was nice to be able to talk to him and figure out what he did."

Their parents try to spend equal time at both Baylor and A&M football games.

"It's an absolute blast. I love the atmosphere of the football games...it's something to look forward to all week long."

For the players, it is a truly unique experience.

"There's not many people that can say they played against their little brother in the same conference at the same position, I'm not sure if that's true for anybody else in the country but it's pretty neat to think about it."

This year, the Battle of the Brazos seems more like family reunion, but between brothers, there will always sibling rivalry.


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