Epstein, Hayden : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Epstein, Hayden

Hayden Scott Epstein

Epstein was a placekicker for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings in 2002, and was expected to be the Vikings' starter as the 2003 season began. A leg injury which he suffered at the end of the 2002 season slowed his progress, however, and just before the 2003 season, he was released by Minnesota with an injury settlement. Epstein signed as a free agent prior to the 2004 season with the Denver Broncos, but was released in the week before the season opener.

An outstanding all-around athlete (Hayden was a four-year letter winner in football, basketball, and soccer in high school), he was the punter and placekicker at the University of Michigan, where he was honorable mention All-Big Ten as a punter in 2000.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. November 16, 1980

Career Highlights:
After an All-America high school football career (listed No. 1 nationally by the National Recruiting Advisor), Epstein enrolled at Michigan. In 1998, he played in eleven of Michigan's thirteen games, primarily as the kickoff specialist. In the final two games of the year, however, Hayden was also the starting punter; he had nine punts (six of which were downed inside the 20-yard line), and a 40.1 yard average. The Wolverines finished the season in a tie for first in the Big Ten (although Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl) with a record of 7-1-0. In the Citrus Bowl, they defeated No. 16 Arkansas, 45-31, and finished the season with an overall record of 10-3-0, ranked No. 12 by both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls.

In 1999, Epstein became the first Michigan player to serve as the starting punter and placekicker in over a decade. He played in all twelve games and finished fourth on the team in scoring with 36 points; he made 21 of 22 extra points and 5 of 8 field goals. On his first collegiate attempt, Hayden tied the school record with a 56-yard field goal! He was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week against Indiana when he scored a career-high ten points (four extra points and two field goals). He also punted six times for a 35.3 average and had two punts inside the 20-yard line. To top off the performance, Hayden kicked the game-winning field goal with 18 seconds remaining. Epstein was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team and Michigan finished second in the conference with a 6-2-0 record. They played No. 8 Alabama in the Orange Bowl, beating the Tide, 35-34, as Epstein made all five extra points and had a career-high eight punts for 347 yards (43.4 average). The Wolverines finished the season with a record of 10-2-0 and were ranked No. 5 by both major polls.

In 2000, Epstein served as the punter and placekicker. He finished third on the team in scoring with 50 points, making 8 of 14 field goals and 26 of 28 extra points. Hayden was named All-Big Ten honorable mention as a punter with a career-high 55 punts for 2,224 yards (40.4 average) and dropped 19 punts inside the 20-yard line. In Michigan's 38-26 win over rival Ohio State, Epstein was selected Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week by scoring eight points (one field goal and five extra points) and kicking 6 punts for 230 yards, including a 55-yard punt; he also had 3 punts inside the 20-yard line. The Wolverines (6-2-0) finished tied for first in the Big Ten and defeated No. 18 Auburn, 31-28, in the Citrus Bowl. Michigan finished the season with a record of 9-3-0 and ranked No. 10 by the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 11 by the AP.

Hayden, who was named 2001 All-Academic Big Ten (with a 3.03 GPA in sports management and communications), had a terrific season and was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week on November 19, following his game-winning field goal in Michigan's 20-17 victory over Wisconsin. Epstein finished the season the team's leading scorer with 71 points (fourth in the Big Ten) on 35-35 extra points and 12-19 field goals, including a career-high 57-yarder in a loss to rival Michigan State on November 3. Hayden also had success punting, with a 39.3 average on 64 punts. The Wolverines finished the regular season 8-3 and ranked No. 17 in the AP poll (they played Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2002). Epstein played in the Senior Bowl on January 26, 2002.

Following his outstanding college career, Epstein was selected by the Jacksonsville Jaguars in the seventh round of the 2002 NFL Draft as the 248th overall pick (only two other kickers were selected in the draft). In the Jags' first six games, Epstein made all 13 of his extra point attempts and went 5-9 on field goals.

On October 22, the Jaguars released Epstein, but he was signed by the Minnesota Vikings the following day. Known for his strong leg, Epstein was the Vikings' kickoff specialist (he had six touchbacks with Jacksonsville), and was mentored by Gary Anderson, the NFL record-holder for career points. Minnesota coach Mike Tice said that Epstein will, "...make us better." The Vikings finished the year with three straight victories and a record of 6-10.

San Diego, California

Career Dates:
Epstein was the punter and placekicker at Michigan from 1998-2001. He played in the NFL for Jacksonville and Minnesota in 2002.

Physical description:
6'2", 205 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NFL (through the 2002 season):
Games: 15

Field goals made: 5
Field goals attempted: 9
Field goal percentage: 55.6

Extra points made: 13
Extra points attempted: 13
Extra point percentage: 100

Total points: 28

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Jewish Sports Review, September/October 2000 issue (Vol. 2, No. 8, Issue 21)

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