A.J. Epenesa witnessed the joy of the Iowa fans Saturday after they watched a last-second field goal pull them passed Pittsburgh. One of the fiercest Hawkeye backers was sitting right next to him.
His father, Epenesa Epenesa, couldn’t contain himself when Marshall Koehn’s 57-yarder sailed through the uprights. The Iowa alum shared his joy with his son, one of the country’s top prospects in the 2017 Recruiting Class.
"My dad was going crazy," A.J. said. "I could tell he was so excited to be back in town for a game. And with that game-winning kick, he couldn’t have been happier."
The Hawkeye faithful is hoping the older Epenesa’s love for Iowa helps the program land A.J., who the 247 network ranks as the overall No. 2 player nationally in ’17 and its top defensive end.
Dad’s alma mater will need to win out ahead of offers from a who’s who of prominent outfits, including Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Tennessee, UCLA and Wisconsin.
A.J. grew up wearing Iowa gear and hearing his father’s stories about his time in the Black and Gold. That affinity for the way of life there will always hold a place in his heart no matter where he chooses to go to college.
"Just being back in Iowa made it good visit," A.J said. "Seeing all of my dad’s old friends and alumni was really cool, too."
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz greeted the Epenesa’s when he came out of the Kinnick Stadium tunnel heading to the sideline. They also spoke after the game.
"Coach Ferentz’s conversation with me is always nice," A.J. said. "He always supports the family atmosphere and how it is unlike any other place."
A.J. visited Iowa for games last season and again in the winter. There’s not much he doesn’t know about the program and school.
"I didn’t really learn much more but I always enjoy my time in Iowa City," he said.
The stop at Iowa represented another step in the recruiting process for the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder. He’s taking his time with it.
"I am nowhere near the stage of committing anywhere at this time," he said.
For more on A.J.’s recruitment, you can read the story and watch the video we shot with him when we attended the game a few weeks ago between his Edwardsville (IL) High team and Rock Island here.
Below are some highlights we shot from that game.