The name Sammie Epps perhaps wasn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue heading into the annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.
But it surely was afterwords.
“He’s an animal,” Mississippi head coach Lance Pogue said. “He has a great future. Not a lot of people knew about him coming in. He’s a playmaker and who can really run with unbelievable ball skills. … All he’s going to do is get bigger, better and stronger at the next level.”
“Sky’s the limit for him. His best is in front of him.”
Epps put on an impressive performance against some of the country’s top-rated defensive backs during the 27th gathering at Cramton Bowl, hauling in seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown en route to being named his team’s MVP on Saturday.
“I came out here to have fun, represent Mississippi and Greenwood — where I am from,” said Epps, a 6-foot-5 receiver/tight end Ole Miss commitment. “I closed out my career the way I wanted, now I am just ready to get to Ole Miss and go to the next level.”
With prep standout cornerbacks like Marlon Humphrey (Hoover), Stephen Roberts (Opelika) and Ronnie Clark (Calera), no one could have foreseen the Alabama defense surrendering 266 passing yards against a secondary that featured an Alabama commit, an Auburn commit and the country’s No. 2-rated defensive back.
Humphrey is widely considered the state’s top overall prospect, Roberts has committed to Auburn and Clark pledged his alliance to Nick Saban’s program.
“I wasn’t looking at the rankings or anything, they’re just another guy just like I am another guy,” said Epps, whose team dropped a 21-17 decision to lose for the sixth time in the series. “I just like to compete and have fun, that’s all. I worked hard every day this week, and it paid off.”
Epps made his presence felt early, outleaping Humphrey for a 38-yard completion that helped set up Mississippi’s first TD midway through the first quarter. His 21-yard touchdown catch from quarterback and Jacksonville State commitment Wyatt Roberts snapped a 7-7 tie right before halftime.
“That guy’s big, he got a nice little push on me and bodied me up,” said Humphrey, a five-star recruit who’s considering offers from Alabama, Florida State and UCLA, among others.
But it was Epps’ jaw-dropping, one-handed grab over the middle in the fourth quarter that had the entire stadium buzzing and applauding.
“I was just going to ask him if he had a baseball glove on because he caught it like he had a mitt on,” said Wetumpka’s Christian Williams, who started at center. “His hand must be huge because that was amazing. That was one of the most amazing catches I’ve seen in person by far.”
Pogue agreed, too.
“It was one of the best catches I’ve seen,” the South Panola High coach said. “One-handed and everything.”