A.J. Epenesa finds inspiration from father's legacy

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IOWA CITY, Iowa. (KCRG) - The Epenesa name should sound familiar.

A.J. Epenesa's father, Epenesa Epensa was a walk-on under Hayden Fry in the late 1990’s. Now more than 20 years later, it’s A.J. who's wreaking havoc.

“To be a great pass rusher you have to have relentless pursuit to the quarterback," Epenesa said. “Fastest way is just going straight through”

Watching and learning from his father's old footage playing D-line is nothing new for A.J.

“He was a lot skinnier back then" A.J. says while laughing.

“I always thought he was a superstar, just knowing that he had the hard road to get to college football, and the way he did it and the way he worked and pushed through to get to that level”

A.J.'s route to the NCAA could not have been more different than his father's. Just about every major program in the country recruited him, yet it was Iowa that stood out.

“Iowa just felt like home, I felt more comfortable here, I felt like everybody was giving me a sales pitch but Iowa really kind of told me straight up. I was happy to have them be straight up with me because that’s kind of how I was raised, my dad told me straight up like if I sucked or doing really well." Epenesa said.

If we are being "straight-up", A.J. is doing as well as he possibly can. Epenesa leads the team with eight and a half sacks as a Sophomore, and he’s doing that as a third down specialist, serving as senior captain Parker Hesse’s backup.

“It just shows hes putting the team first hes done a great job of accepting his role and taking advantage of every opportunity he gets." said senior safety Jake Gervase.

"After these next two games hes going to start every game make big plays for the rest of his career"

"There's not many people who can make the plays that he makes and just to see his attitude as he continues to grow and develop." senior defensive-end Parker Hesse said.

"He's playing faster and faster, as he gets more comfortable, that allows him to make more of those game-breaking, momentum-swing like plays."

“I think that’s part of being a good player is knowing your role and trying to be great, so if my role isn’t to start or be an every down player I'm going to be great at what I do and if that’s being a 3rd down specialist then I'm going to be after the quarterback every time I'm on the field” Epenesa said.