Hawkeye Junior A.J. Epenesa Declares for NFL Draft

January 14, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – In a move that was expected, Iowa junior A.J. Epenesa announced in social media that he was declaring for April’s NFL Draft.

Epenesa, the son of former Hawkeye Epenesa Epenesa, played three seasons at Iowa and projects as a first-round draft pick. He was twice named All-Big Ten First-Team despite not starting until this past season. He finished the season with 11.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. He racked 26.5 career sacks and 36.5 tackles for loss.

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The Hawkeyes reeled in the younger Epenesa despite him holding offers from all of the nation’s blue blood programs. The Rivals’ five-star recruit grew up wearing Black and Gold.

Iowa defensive line coach Kelvin Bell said at the time of Epenesa’s signing that he was a five-star recruit with a two-star attitude, meaning he was humble and hungry and not one resting in his laurels.

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While there was clamoring among fans to start Epenesa upon his arrival here, he never complained and complimented mentor Parker Hesse, who be played behind for two seasons. In addition to his statistics this year, he drew extra attention from opposing offense with aided greatly in Iowa being among the nation’s top defenses again.

Epenesa joins fellow true junior Geno Stone, a safety, as Hawkeyes declaring early for this year’s draft. Classmate Tristan Wirfs, an offensive lineman, is expected to follow suit in the coming days.

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Iowa now has lost seven starting defensive linemen from the last two seasons to the NFL or graduation. Epenesa, Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff left after this fall. Hesse, Sam Brincks, Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson finished up following ’18.

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