by Malcolm Yates
Joe Eppele, co-host "The Edge" on WildTV
I love this town. It’s nestled in nature yet big city adjacent. You want green space? It’s all green space! I moved to Squamish in 2006 and can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be. In fact, you almost need to step away from the Sea to Sky to appreciate its beauty. Well folks, that’s exactly what Joe Eppele did and I’d like to run down a bit of his background if you’ll indulge me.
Joe is a retired football player with a 5 year career in the Canadian Football League. He’s co-host of The Edge, a popular hunting show on WildTV and he’s a Squamish son; born and bred and back in the fold. Big Joe is a mountain of a man, with his 6’8” frame maintained by masses of muscle. As he entered the Sunflower Café for our interview I quickly realized not everyone is created equal. It wasn’t until after we broke bread (and thank you, Sunflower, what lovely bread it was) that I found my first impression ill fitting. While everyone is given varying amounts of raw material, it’s what you do with it that counts.
In middle school Joe’s raw material was also his biggest enemy. At 6’5” he was well on his way to largesse, but more chunk than chiseled. Joe’s bones had grown at a faster rate than the rest of his body and doctors were worried that, should he exert himself, his ligaments & tendons would tear under the pressure and he’d “basically snap.” Accordingly, young Joe was excused from physical education and dismissed as a boy who just wasn’t the athletic type.
Joe Eppele, Number 59- Toronto Argonauts, Grey Cup Winning Team 2012
Over time, it wasn’t Joe’s body that snapped but his mind. Or at least, his mindset. “In grade eight I was 320 pounds. I was this big, knock-kneed, roly-poly, pear-shaped kid that couldn’t run half a lap. The doctors were telling me I couldn’t run but I couldn’t keep living like this.” So Joe made a choice and hit the gym. Hard. In two years he’d managed to drop 50 pounds of fat while adding muscle to a body whose disparate parts had finally caught up with each other.
This très grand transformation found Joe excelling in GSL community football AND competing at the national level in Track & Field. While his collegiate path would be paved either way, it was the full ride football scholarship from Washington State that Joe jumped on. Not bad for a kid that wasn’t the athletic type. Of course, now people were saying just the opposite: Oh, he’s so lucky. He’s just gifted. The reversal of public opinion was an irony not lost on Joe and he used it as fuel, working his ass off in the gym, the field, and the classroom.
Ultimately, it was Joe’s work ethic that overcame his coming relatively late to the game of football. This resulted in Joe being drafted in the first round, second pick overall by the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. And while I could spend my entire word count on the highs and lows of Joes football career, suffice to say winning the 100th Grey Cup Championship in 2012 along with the city of Toronto’s jubilant afterparty was the experience of a lifetime that he says, “likely took years off my life!”
And the lows? Well folks, you don’t need John Madden to tell you football is a physical sport that takes its toll. With a great run in Toronto in the rear view and a couple shoulder surgeries on the horizon, Joe felt like it was time to hang up the cleats and move on to the next phase of his career. Or should I say “phases.” In short order Joe bought and managed a gym, went back to school, got his MBA and met his future wife. Remember that work ethic I’d mentioned? But a piece of the puzzle was still missing.
Growing up in Squamish Joe developed a great love of the great outdoors, hunting & fishing with his father. And while Toronto had given him all he could’ve asked for, the wild West Coast was always whispering its wanton wares into Joe’s ear. And it was while being stuck in traffic one day that those whispers intensified, causing the big man to turn to his lady love and ask: “When are we going back to BC?” The answer: as soon as possible.
Did Squamish welcome him back with open arms? Of course we did! I listened as Joe told me how proud he was to be the Parade Marshall for the 60th Annual Squamish Logger Sports Festival. And Big Joe told the tale with a reverence that rivalled his Grey Cup win. And so the Squamish son has returned, just another amazing human living in this amazing town. Welcome home, Joe!
The Sunflower Bakery
38084 Cleveland Ave
Downtown Squamish, BC
Follow Malcolm Yates on Instagram @seatoskybeerguy