A.J. Epenesa


Ben Allan Smith

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa (94) sacks Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) during the game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The Hawkeyes fell to the Badgers 38-14.

Jack McFarland, Sports Reporter

A.J. Epenesa. If you don’t know the name, wake up. He is the Hawkeye’s most surprising player so far in this season.

Some may ask, “Why Epenesa? He’s a former 5-star recruit with outstanding potential.” That’s exactly why I picked him.

At the beginning of the season, Epenesa was listed as second-string defensive end behind senior Parker Hesse. Hesse has been a solid starter for some time, and Epenesa was coming off a freshman year with some glimmers of success but nothing consistent.

Then Iowa State messed up, big time.

Iowa State unintentionally allowed Epenesa to get involved. With the game going back and forth, both teams playing for their respective halves of the state, something had to give. Fatigue was beginning to set in for both teams. Coaches were substituting in hopes of a spark or at least some fresh legs.

Out of nowhere, similar to WWE superstar Randy Orton, Epenesa struck.

A pair of sacks, a batted ball, and a forced fumble later, Epenesa had asserted himself as  Iowa’s own Orton. Sneaky, scary, and savage. Notably, both Epenesa and Orton are upwards of 6-5 and weigh more than 260 pounds.

Will it take Epenesa’s Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors for teams to take include him in their game plans? I sure hope so.

If the rest of Iowa’s scheduled teams choose to ignore Epenesa and shrug off his dominating performance, then he will eventually grow into Orton’s alter-ego; the Apex Predator.