Ryan Epperson is enjoying his senior season as the starting punter at Texas A&M and the team's first year in the Southeastern Conference.
He also has his eyes set on what happens after graduation.
The North Texas native and petroleum engineering major interned with Devon Energy Corp. this summer and already has a job lined up with the Oklahoma City energy company when he graduates.
Epperson spent the summer in downtown Oklahoma City, where he worked with oil and natural gas production in the Woodford Shale formation near Weatherford.
“As an intern, you don't always know what you're expected to accomplish, but at Devon this summer, what they had for me was time-consuming and challenging. I felt like I really contributed,” Epperson said.
Epperson's managers obviously agree. They already hired him, pending graduation in the spring.
“It definitely makes my senior year a lot easier,” he said. “I don't have to worry about interviewing or the stress of finding a job. It definitely makes school a lot less stressful and will help me enjoy my senior year a lot more.”
Having hands-on experience and knowing how he will use what he's learning helps as well.
“Now when I sit in class, I've seen first hand what the teachers are talking about,” Epperson said. “It helps me to stay focused in class.”
Knowing he has a job lined up may help Epperson with his class work, but he still has to balance school with football, where the four-year starting punter is No. 8 in the country with an average of more than 46 yards per kick.
Epperson's days are full.
He wakes early to lift weights and is in class most of the morning and early afternoon. Football practice starts at 2:45 p.m. and lasts until dinner.
Epperson starts his homework when he gets home around 8 p.m.
“It's definitely been time consuming doing football and petroleum engineering, but it's been a good experience,” Epperson said. “It makes you manage your time extremely well. I have to plan ahead, especially when we're traveling on the weekend because when that happens, I can't do homework on Friday and Saturday. I have to make sure I plan accordingly and manage my time.”
Epperson's professors are accommodating, even though most of them have never had a student on the football team before.
“I introduce myself at the beginning of class and let them know my situation,” Epperson said. “They've been good about it.”
Balancing football with a heavy class load is not an easy task, but Epperson said he enjoys both and has found a way to make them work together.
“There are definitely hard times when the workload is ridiculous, but since my freshman year, I've figured out how to take things one step at a time and do what I need to do,” he said. “There's no point in getting stressed out about it. There have been times when I've been drowning in schoolwork and it's been no fun, but I knew I'd stick with it and it would be worth it.”