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BHGP “Sits-Down” With AJE

We asked him questions to get answers that you wanted to know.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Illinois
Touchdown AJE!
Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we asked you on Twitter and Facebook what you would ask A.J. Epenesa if you could sit down with him face-to-face. Of course you correctly chastised us that we shouldn’t be within six feet of him in the current environment but then proceeded to come up with some good questions.

Well, we took your advice to heart and we virtually sat down with Epenesa and asked him some questions as he gets ready for the NFL Draft and prepares for his professional career. Epenesa is currently home with his family and enjoying their time together before things really pick up in his life.


1. First off, thanks for taking the time to do this Q&A. You are definitely a fan favorite here at BHGP and while we’ll definitely miss your exploits at Iowa, we will continue following and reporting as you progress through your pro career. First question, have you read any articles from BHGP before this Q&A?

AJE: Thanks for having me on here though honestly this is the first time hearing about the site. But I am excited, and it will be fun! I hope I can bring some smiles and answer some questions while everyone is at home trying to beat this thing going on.

Note: While slightly crushed that AJE hasn’t read my AJ’s Annihilation posts before, I’m hoping that he catches up on them. Also, it’s widely noted that Iowa players are not active on social media during their collegiate careers so that may have played a part as well.

2. Let’s start with some questions about your Hawkeye career. First off, what game was the loudest that you can remember at Kinnick during your career?

AJE: The loudest game has to be when we played Penn state in 2017. I couldn’t hear a single play call from Josey (linebacker Josey Jewell) and even though we lost the game, it was one of the most electrifying atmospheres I’ve been a part of.

3. Do you have a favorite sack from your college career?

AJE: When we played Minnesota this past year and I got the sack late in the game to seal it, that was my favorite one.

4. Conversely, who was the toughest lineman that you had to face in college?

AJE: The toughest lineman I have faced has to be Cole Van Lanen from Wisconsin.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin
Cole Van Lanen working hard against Chase Young.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

5. You certainly made a great decision coming to Iowa, but how close were you to going to another school? Either way, can you tell us who was #2 on your list?

AJE: My second favorite school was Oklahoma. I really liked Coach Stoops and their D-line coach at the time.

6. Iowa is historically a program known for getting some 2 and 3 star athletes and coaching them up to be productive players and sometimes NFL caliber. Do you have any words of wisdom to the 4 and 5 star players on why Iowa would be a great choice for them as well?

AJE: Being able to play under Coach Ferentz and to lift and get stronger under Coach Doyle is an opportunity that no other school in the country has to offer. They have more experience and knowledge than anyone else. They both have been at Iowa for over 20 years now

7. Switching gears, people really wanted to know about what you eat for some reason. Let’s start simple and ask what your favorite food is overall and then what your gameday go-to meal is?

AJE: My favorite food definitely has to be a ribeye steak. Our gameday meals are provided by the team and I usually go with some pasta and some grilled chicken.

8. Pancheros or Casey’s?

AJE: I love them both. I had Casey’s growing up in Glen Carbon, but Pancheros is also really good. Their queso is probably the best in town.

9. What do you get from Which Wich?

AJE: My go to sandwich from there is their buffalo chicken with some ranch drizzled over.

10. What do you eat on days where you train intensely and how do you go about strategically planning out your meals/snacks? Who creates the meal plan?

AJE: We usually wake up around 5:30 on a typical day during the season and they have breakfast prepared for us when we get there but after we practice and lift, I will grab a sandwich and some protein bars to snack on during the day before I come back to the facility for dinner.

11. As a follow-up to that question, what do you eat on your off/cheat days? Can we get calorie estimates for each scenario?

AJE: I couldn’t tell you how many calories, but when I like to go and let myself eat whatever, I love going to Carl and Ernie’s in Iowa City and getting their BLT. It is the best BLT I’ve ever had.

12. Of course people also want to know about the NFL. In this world of self-isolating, what plans does your family have for draft night (Thursday, April 23)? Any Facebook Live links or anything for others to enjoy?

AJE: We aren’t certain of what draft day is going to be like, but we just plan on spending it together as a family and just trying to enjoy the day together.

13. We won’t ask what team you would prefer to go to because I’m sure you’ll be happy with whoever picks you, but can you tell us how many teams have interviewed you so far?

AJE: I had 19 formal interviews at the combine, but I have done informal interviews with almost all 32 teams.

14. What are your feelings as we are now three weeks from draft night?

AJE: I am feeling pretty anxious. I am very excited for the big event.

15. Has Jared Devries given you any advice about the NFL? For those unfamiliar with the story, there is definitely a reason that the ‘J’ in AJE is Jared and that AJE wears #94.

AJE: Jared is one of my dad’s closest friends and he never wanted to confuse me with anything during my time at Iowa but he has definitely been an impact on my game just by the fact of wanting to live up to my name and number.

Jared DeVries
Another player that was pretty good wearing #94.

16. What will be your first major purchase once you get “NFL money”?

AJE: I’ll probably get me a new truck.

17. You come from a huge extended family. Do you currently have any relatives in the NFL?

AJE: My first cousin is Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and he plays defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons.

NFL: DEC 29 Falcons at Buccaneers
AJE can turn to family for some tricks of the trade.
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

18. Here are some random questions that people had that don’t fit in the school, food, or NFL category. First one is where did you get your tattoo work done?

AJE: My dad’s cousins did my tattoo. I got the first part done in Chicago while in high school and the rest of it was done by my uncle who lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

19. Have you met Spencer Lee? Who is the real Big Man on Campus? Do you have any Spencer Lee stories for us?

AJE: I have never got to meet Spencer, but I am a big fan of his due to his work ethic and the success he has on the mat. I never knew much about wrestling since I played hoops growing up but I have a lot of respect for the sport. Our guys at Iowa are warriors out there.

COLLEGE WRESTLING: MAR 07 Big Ten Wrestling Championships
Seriously? AJE and Spencer Lee haven’t met? Who can make this happen?
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

20. What was your favorite swag from a Bowl Game?

AJE: For the pinstripe bowl (2017), we got a huge winter coat and I have gotten the most use out of that thing since it really just gets so cold in Iowa.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions. Best of luck as you continue to workout and prepare for the NFL draft. I’m confident that whatever team chooses you will be very happy and there will be more than a couple teams that kick themselves for not pulling the trigger.

So while AJE will no longer be recording sacks for Iowa, we will have the opportunity to watch him on television for years to come. Additionally, this certainly may not be the last time that we hear the name Epenesa from the Hawkeye announcers as brother Eric is set to join the team this fall and he has a younger brother that is still in middle school as well.