For teens who think they have no future in sports if they aren’t destined for the pros, don’t overlook roles just as valuable as the clean-up hitter or quarterback.

Just ask Bud Epps.

A 1972 graduate of St. Joseph Central High School, Epps once was pulled aside by John Henage (MSHOF 2015), at the time an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach.

“He had a vision that sports medicine would become very popular and he’d help in any way he could,” Epps said, noting Henage educated him about athletic training and set up summer camps to learn the profession.

What a career it became. Epps spent more than 40 years holding the title of Athletic Trainer, and his importance to the Missouri Tigers and then the Kansas City Chiefs is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Epps with the Class of 2020.

Epps was the Assistant Athletic Trainer at Mizzou from 1976 to 1984, a time when he served as the Head Athletic Trainer for men’s basketball.

As Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Chiefs (1984-2005), the Chiefs enjoyed 15 winning seasons, which included 12 playoff games and four AFC West Division championships (1993, 1995, 1997, 2003).

He also was the Pro Bowl Athletic Trainer in 1993, when he was named the Chiefs Employee of the Year.

Along the way, he worked with 77 future inductees of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame who were either athletes, coaches, administrators or associated directly with Central High School, Mizzou or the Chiefs.

His career included NCAA bowl games, NCAA Tournaments, NFL American Bowl games and Big Eight Conference championship teams.

Additionally, he was among athletic trainers who successfully convinced the Missouri Legislature to require certification and licensure of athletic trainers.

“The single-biggest victory I was involved in,” Epps said.

Perhaps none of that success would have been possible without a number of mentors.

At Mizzou, Fred Wappel (MSHOF 1994) accepted him into the Athletic Training program, pushing Epps to be one of the best.

“It’s difficult for me to explain what Fred and his beautiful wife, Helen, meant to me,” Epps said. “They were another set of parents to me.”

Additionally, Dr. Glenn McElroy (MSHOF 1984) steered him along, teaching him, “to covet the physician/athletic trainer relationship,” he said. Another influence was basketball coach Norm Stewart (MSHOF Legend 2000).

At Mizzou, he worked as a student trainer and Stewart’s summer camps. When the basketball team’s Head Athletic Trainer left, Stewart and Wappel offered the position.

During those years, he established working relationships with Chiefs trainers and doctors, as the Chiefs and St. Louis Football Cardinals would scrimmage in Columbia each summer.

In 1984, he was hired by the Chiefs, and Head Athletic Trainer Dave Kendall (MSHOF 2018) became a mentor.

“We worked side by side for 20-plus years and, at first, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I got into the NFL,” Epps said. “Dave made that transition easy for me, and his wealth of knowledge about sports medicine was amazing.”

Epps emphasized, too, that former Chiefs President Carl Peterson (MSHOF 2005), “never looked at me as an assistant athletic trainer.”

Certainly, the mark of an athletic trainer is professionalism, such as holding a hard line on sending players back out on the field until they’re ready.

“You have to develop a professional trust with your coaches and the players,” Epps said. “They have to believe in your abilities and that you’ve done everything possible and that no options have been overlooked with the care of the athlete.”

Epps has been a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association and, since 1984 a member of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PATS), plus past Chairman of the Missouri State Board of Healing Art’s Athletic Training Advisory Committee. He also was inducted into the Missouri Sports Medicine Hall of Fame and was part of the PFATS Athletic Training Staff of the Year in 1991.

Epps earned Easter Seals State of Missouri Volunteer of the Year in 1986-1987 and 1993. He has been certified in Missouri since 1985. He still works Chiefs home games (with the opposing team) and has been part of Select Physical Therapy since 2008.

All of this happened thanks to the support of his wife, Pam, and their daughters.

“This award is not about me; it’s about all the people I’ve been blessed to have around me from Central High School in St. Joe to Mizzou and to the Chiefs,” Epps said.