The young, local journalist finds her niche in sports
By Deb Silverthorn
If ever one were to score a touchdown, a slam dunk, a goal and a home run, it would be Dallas’ own Jori Epstein. Since October 2018, the 24-year-old reporter for USA Today Sports, who covers the Dallas Cowboys and the National Football League, has created material for the paper’s print, web, video and social media platforms.
Whether interviewing a home team favorite or a rival opponent, Epstein has become as comfortable in the locker room as she is analyzing on-field elements and the business side of the game.
With a significant resume and enough bylines to fill a scoreboard, just three years after graduating from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II Honors and Journalism, Epstein has produced stories for The Dallas Morning News and DMN/SportsDayDFW.com.
While still a Longhorn, she was a campus correspondent and reporter for Sports Illustrated, a sports editing intern at the Philadelphia Daily News, and football columnist, senior sports writer and sports editor at UT’s The Daily Texan, and contributing writer, copy editor at the Texas Jewish Post and Tower Tomorrow Fellow for The Israel Project.
During school, the budding journalist knew the career path she was interested in, but it came with some decisions. As a news reporter, she’d have to leave class on a moment’s notice; the top student couldn’t meet that. Turning to sports, a more scheduled subject, she realized that, in order to keep Shabbat as observantly as she did, she could not cover live football games. Able to make that work, this now football-writing wizard covered just one UT football game live during college — a Monday night postseason bowl game.
“Cross-country, soccer, basketball and softball — I covered almost every other sport and somehow I still got here,” Epstein said. “Pro football doesn’t happen on Shabbat and I’m able to make it work and I love it. I have so many stories to tell and they come from on and off the field, from the business office to back in the locker rooms.
“There are 53 players on the team with a united goal. My job is to find their stories that won’t be showing up on 30 other sites,” she said, her voice also heard on Twitter, Instagram and other social media circles.
Epstein enjoys being in Dallas, but reaches out to find that piece. On a story about Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott, she went to his hometown of Haughton, Louisiana, to talk to his high school friends. A story with Randy Gregory, defensive end for the Cowboys, had him talking about mental health challenges as he returned from a yearlong suspension. “How I get the story is sometimes as important as the story itself,” Epstein said.
Chasing the players, making the calls, it sometimes takes 10 attempts to get one return. “I’ve learned to view rejection differently,” said Epstein, one of about five women, among more than 40 men, covering the Dallas Cowboys. “I have a long list of pieces I plan to work on, and I’m always wondering where I can take my readers, what can I teach, what can I give them.”
A graduate of Akiba and Yavneh academies, and former member of the Judy Kravitz chapter of BBYO, Epstein is the daughter of Barry and Dia and sister of Daley, Jason and Zach. Together, the family has long supported the Food Pantry at Jewish Family Service, Epstein and her siblings taking turns chairing annual food drives at school.
Previously a lifeguard and camper at Camp Young Judaea, Epstein also spent teen summers as a counselor at Akiba’s Camp Mazal and the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center’s pre-camp and participating in BBYO’s Camp Impact programs in Boston and Washington D.C.
Having grown up at congregations Beth Torah, Shaare Tefilla and Shearith Israel, and now involved at The Intown Chabad, Epstein appreciates aspects of each of her communities.
While she is passionate about reading Torah in some congregations, she regularly shares a weekly d’var Torah on Shabbat at The Intown Chabad.
“My Jewish life has always meant a lot to me. It’s important for people in my generation to learn, grow and share,” Epstein said. “It’s important to me to see people in my peer group passionate about Jewish learning and participating in the many facets of our community.”
Reaching out to her community, Epstein is working on her first book, the memoir of local Holocaust survivor Max Glauben. More than three years in the making, of style and form different from any of her work to date, it is a “coming soon” project worth waiting for.
In the audience at a recent Legacy of Willow Bend semimonthly “Getting to Know Your Neighbors and Your Staff and your Relatives of Residents” series at The Legacy at Willow Bend, Sylvia Epstein was proud of every answer her granddaughter gave interviewer Bob Weinfeld. She also gave the real scoop. “Jori’s always been an energizer bunny. She’s always fun and always a pleasure.”
Throughout Weinfeld’s interview, Epstein was never stumped, but no answer came quicker than to his “Tell me about your siblings.” Her response: “We’re a team.” Score for the Epsteins, a score that can’t be beat.
“Jori was terrific, she’s really an incredible young lady with quite a spirit and a lot of talent,” Weinfeld said. “Someday I might even let her on the field of the Temple Shalom Softball League.”
An offer Epstein couldn’t let pass, and if a woman is going to swing a bat on the sacred fields, it just might be her.
Follow @JoriEpstein on social media and read her articles in the print and online editions of USA Today.