Thanks to the World Cup and the passion of fans across the world, soccer has become increasingly popular in the US. Social media has helped this along—with people tweeting out hashtags and painting their faces on game day in honor of their favorite team. The Philadelphia Union is no exception to the energy that surrounds the sport.
Marcus Epps—a midfielder for the team since 2017—was once a fan himself, and has since achieved his goal of being a professional soccer player. Through a combination of hard work, healthy living, and passion for the game, Epps accomplished this feat at just twenty-two years old.
What does a day in the life of Marcus Epps look like?
A day in my life is pretty simple: I wake up, get ready for my day, have breakfast, and then head to training. I spend the rest of the day hydrating and relaxing until it’s time to wind down with some good television or video games. After dinner, I end the day with some stretching and yoga before I go bed.
What have you learned about yourself—both as an athlete and personally—by being a player with the Philadelphia Union?
This year, I have learned a lot about myself on and off the field. The main thing I learned is that I truly love the game of soccer. Through the ups and downs, I still wake up every morning feeling blessed that I get to play soccer professionally—especially with an organization as great as the Philadelphia Union. As an athlete for this team, I also learned that there are many interpretations of the game and ways to play, but the biggest part is playing with your heart each time you touch the field.
Have you always been passionate about soccer, or were there other sports you enjoyed growing up that you considered pursuing?
Soccer has always been my number one sport. I first started playing when I was three, with my dad helping to run my local team’s organization in Jackson, Mississippi. My two older brothers were also involved with the sport, so I grew up loving the game as soon as I could walk. I also played football and basketball for some time during middle school and high school, but soccer was always my passion.
When did you first know that this is what you wanted to do for a living?
I fell in love with the game growing up on the field with my older brothers, but my first memory of wanting to go pro was during the 2002 World Cup. I was hooked as soon I watched the energy surrounding the Brazilian team on the field.
Do you have any role models—athletes or otherwise—who you feel have helped you achieve your goals?
There have been a lot of individuals who have helped me on my journey to where I am in my profession, but I will say that Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain, respectively, are two of my biggest role models in my career. Cristiano Ronaldo is a great example of how focusing on your sport can make you achieve great things. Neymar has taught me about how staying in tune with your body is sometimes more important than being the most athletic person in your sport.
What games in your career stand out to you, and why?
Debuting as an MLS player in the game against Real Salt Lake, because in that moment, I accomplished a childhood dream. I can’t wait to continue setting new goals for myself and hopefully accomplish them as well.
Do you have any pregame rituals that you stick to for good luck?
I don’t really have any other than to relax, to regain focus, to eat a good meal. I also typically play a game of FIFA and listen to some music beforehand.
If you weren’t a professional soccer player, what do you think you would be doing?
If I had not accomplished my dream of going pro, I would have been a chef or to have gone into my family’s real estate business.
What do you do to stay healthy both during the season and during the off-season?
During the season, it’s easy to stay healthy because the Union offers great assistance with our nutrition. Combined with my usual training and workout schedule, I stay pretty healthy throughout the season. During the off-season, I try to keep the same habits—eating healthy meals, taking daily vitamins, and practicing a fitness routine, as well as other physical activities like stretching and yoga.
What are some of your favorite workouts?
Any core-based exercises are essential to my profession as a soccer player. I also try to incorporate explosive workouts into my routine, which improve strength and speed—important aspects of playing soccer professionally.
How do your training workouts differ from your workout regime during the off-season?
Training workouts are a lot more intense than my postseason workouts. We focus more on creating team chemistry and what my role is, whereas workouts on my own are more about bettering my individual skill set.
What is your favorite workout that isn’t related to your profession?
Aside from soccer, I greatly enjoy doing yoga. The stretching really helps my body when I am in recovery from my regular workouts. I also enjoy the overall connection it provides for the mind, the body, and the soul. Yoga can be an important practice for anyone—athlete or not.
What foods or drinks are essential to your healthy lifestyle?
As far as food goes, I’m a huge vegetable guy. I also love trying new foods, especially if they have good nutritional value. I do make a point to stay away from carbonated drinks, and I try to stick to just water and healthy smoothies throughout the day.
Do you have any tips for people who want to live a healthier lifestyle?
When people come to me asking for advice on healthy living, the main points I try to emphasize are nutrition and light, consistent exercise. I feel as though if you have enough awareness in those two areas, it could end up making a huge difference in leading a healthier life.
Is there pressure to constantly be in your best shape?
I wouldn’t necessarily say there is pressure to always be in my best shape, but there is definitely an understanding and mindfulness involved in playing a professional-level sport. I try to make sure I’m taking care of my body and paying attention to anything that can hinder my healthy lifestyle.
What keeps you motivated when the going gets tough?
My faith, my family, and surrounding myself with loving people keeps me going. I also try to stay focused on the bigger picture and the goals I have yet to achieve. I really believe that it’s important to always set your bar higher.
How do you push through an injury?
Dealing with an injury is always a very tough situation for a professional athlete, both mentally and physically. One way I cope with injuries is to focus on short-term recovery and successes and trying to not get discouraged by thinking too far ahead. I try to think about what I can improve each day rather than allowing myself to get derailed by a potential setback.
What’s your advice for people with tight schedules who want to fit in a workout?
Workouts don’t have to be two hours, or even an hour long, if you have a busy schedule, try carving out fifteen to thirty minutes for some exercise—even if it means setting your alarm earlier than normal. Your body will thank you later. It’s all about fitting different exercises into your daily routine, whether it’s doing squats at your desk or lunges instead of walking—things like that.
What do you do when you’re craving a cheat meal?
Normally, when I’m craving a cheat meal, it just means that I’m hungry. I try to offset any cravings by simply eating a normal meal. But I also believe in giving your body what it wants, as long as everything is done in moderation.
Do you have a favorite healthy snack?
Definitely guacamole with a handful of multigrain chips.
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