Transfer Bison receiver is hoping persistence pays off
FARGO—It was a roundabout way how Jimmy Kepouros found his way into the North Dakota State football program. His third college team in three years, he came to Fargo early in the summer of 2016 to jump right into summer conditioning.
Finally, he thought, he found his football home.
It lasted one day. Being the healthy wide receiver who could run a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash lasted one day.
While doing some routine passing drills during a captain's practice, he made two hard cuts in a row on a route, but the second one was disastrous. His knee popped and just like that—on his first day—he tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus.
"I mean, I had just run a few routes," Kepouros said. "The guys saw that I had a little something in me and then all of a sudden it just went. I felt pretty low because nobody saw what I could do. I got hurt on the first day and I'm sure they were thinking, who is this guy? He transfers here and gets hurt on the first day."
Instead of packing up and heading back home, and maybe calling it a career, Kepouros stayed. He wasn't on the Bison roster, but remained in school hoping to rehabilitate his knee well enough to get back for spring football.
"I like what they have going on here so I wanted to do my part," Kepouros said. "I'm still struggling to get to where I was. I would say I'm pretty close to 100 percent now. I'm getting there and it's a process. It's a tough injury you have to overcome and you just deal with it."
The 5-foot-8, 177-pound Kepouros had three Division I offers out of high school: NDSU, Illinois State and Western Michigan.
He picked FBS Western and redshirted his first season in 2015. He left the following year and enrolled at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill. In the spring of 2016, he was reunited with the NDSU coaching staff via email and returned to Fargo for another recruiting visit.
"The first thing I saw is we have a quarterback (Easton Stick) who can move and we have some running backs who can move," Kepouros said. "So I was like, all right, I like what they have going on here."
He came to NDSU about the same time receiver Desmond Cain transferred from Illinois. Their two former teams, Western Michigan and the Illini, played each other in 2016 so they had that in common. Both are trying to make their mark on a Bison receiving corps that returns just one player, Darrius Shepherd, who had more than seven receptions.
Cain played last year, with the height of his value being on special teams. So far, Bison head coach Chris Klieman said Kepouros has had a good first few days of practice.
"I'm proud of him because he had the ACL last year and was limited in the spring," Klieman said. "He's a hungry kid that wants to play. He sees that there are spots on the wide receiver depth chart."
It's a depth chart that will take some work to get on the field. Kepouros knows that.
"Every day," he said. "I feel like I have to prove something every day."