Making mistakes, amends on the path to prosperity

Student-athlete overcomes adversity, empowers soccer team


Cody Casares / The Advocate

Comet defender Edgar Yepes (center) fools Thunderbird defender Shishay Sebatu (left) by cutting to the outside during Contra Costa College’s 3-1 win against Merritt College on Friday. Yepes has started 19 games this season, including 11 conference games.

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

As the Comet soccer players trickle into the training room, quietly confident before their last home game of the season, the prospect of becoming Bay Valley Conference champions and solidifying a playoff spot fills the room with anxious anticipation.

That is until first year center fullback Edgar Yepes enters the building.

The freshman’s energy consumes the room. His overwhelming personality and confident, borderline cocky, attitude is just what the Comet cast of ultra athletic nice guys needs.

“It is just the way I am naturally. They feed off of me and I feed off of them,” Yepes said. “It relaxes them more and they know they can depend on me. When I come in I can feel our confidence grow.”

Born in San Francisco, the 24-year- old relocated with his parents and two older brothers to Richmond when he was 9 years old.

Graduating from Richmond High School in 2009, he now finds himself pursuing a career in nursing, which he has also chosen as his major.

“I like to help people out.” Yepes said. “My brother used to work in a hospital when I was younger and I used to go see him on duty. Since I was small I always wanted to be a nurse.”

Learning to play soccer as soon as he could walk, his father (who also coached soccer) was the main influence in molding his athletic prowess.

After high school, Yepes opted out of continuing his education because he said the prospect of economic independence was too much to resist.

Instead he chose to work full time and watched as some of his  friends transitioned from playing soccer at community colleges to accepting opportunities to play at four-year schools.

As friends posted pictures of their out-of-state college experiences, Yepes found himself in legal trouble after intersecting the avenues of free time, money and hanging with the wrong crowd.

Instead of cleaning his dorm room, Yepes found himself cleaning his mother’s raided home and at the center of a police investigation.

After serving six weeks in jail, Yepes was bailed out with the help of lawyers and investigators. He was found not to be culpable, but was still slapped with five years of probation.

“Everybody looked at me differently, like I was a bad person and not someone who just made a mistake,” Yepes said. “My parents were disappointed, but the lawyer proved I had nothing to do with it.”

That crucial moment was a crossroads of sorts for the young man. This bad fortune offered him an opportunity to reset and reshape the direction his life was headed.

Determined to grow from his troubling experience, Yepes found inspiration from friend and former Richmond High soccer teammate Frances Kamai. Kamai played soccer at Southwestern University in Kansas in 2014.

Yepes said Kamai told him to give school another shot, because with his soccer talent a four-year college could be in his future.

“He (Kamai) told me I was better than some of the players on that level and if I put my all into it playing in college could be a reality for me,” Yepes said.

After arriving at CCC, Yepes sought out Comet soccer coach Nikki Ferguson. He introduced himself and said he would be joining the team.

“Edgar came to me, told me he was good and that he would definitely make the team,” Ferguson said.

“He is Contra Costa College. He is part of the fabric of what makes this campus special. He embodies what it is to overcome adversity,” he said.

His teammates agree that Yepes has the intangibles that make a team complete.

“He’s vocal, and most of us are not. But we get the job done. He has the charisma,” Comet defender Davis Okonkwo said. “I feel better when he is out there beside me.”

After sophomore Charlie Mendoza (who now plays at Southwestern College in Kansas) left the team last year and Kevin Navas suffering an ACL injury earlier in the season, on-field leadership, not ability, was still in question.

“(Yepes) keeps us together by always telling us what to do and where to be,” CCC right winger Missael Hernandez said.

The rigors of maintaining a job, a 3.0 GPA and committing to a sports team is physically and mentally draining. Yepes works before every game and has just enough time to make it to the Soccer Field for the pre-game routine.

“It is hard — it wears on you mentally,” Yepes said. “There is no time for treatment so each physical problem piles on to the next since most of us do not get to spend time getting treatment in the training room.”

Yepes said he returned to school because there is more to life than good pay. Education and the opportunity for a better life are out there and Yepes is working to get his slice.