One of the Big Ten’s most dynamic pass rushers is off to the NFL. Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa declared for the 2020 NFL Draft on Instagram this morning.
Epenesa is coming off of an interesting junior season. In 2018, he did not start for Iowa, but served as a pass rush specialist off the bench, taking down quarterbacks 10.5 times on the year.
He got off to a relatively slow start this season, his first as a starter, but really heated up in November. After just 3.5 sacks through the first eight games of the year, Epenesa exploded, with eight sacks in the team’s final five games.
That includes some of the team’s biggest matchups of the year, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and USC in the Holiday Bowl, a 49-24 win for the Hawkeyes.
He made his announcement moments ago:
A.J. Epenesa’s full letter:
“Over the last three years I have had the amazing opportunity to play for the University of Iowa, I got to live my childhood dream and represent the black and gold.
“After long discussion with my parents and loved ones I have decided to follow another childhood dream and enter into the 2020 NFL Draft.
“There are so many people that if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be in the position I am toda. I want to say thank you to the entire coaching staff at Iowa for supporting me no matter what in the good times and during the bad.
“Thank you to Coach Ferentz for giving me a chance and believing in me from the very start.
“I want to say thank you to all of the staff at the University of Iowa including training staff, media, secretaries. You all have made memories with me at Iowa and I will never forget them.
“Thank you to my parents for always being there and always having my best interest in mind. Without their support and guidance I wouldn’t be who I am today and I am forever grateful to them.
“I have been blessed to have some of the best teammates I could ever as for, they are my best friends and my brothers for life. Thank you to all of my teammates during my time at Iowa.
“Lastly, Thank you to all the Hawkeye fans for your love and support. Week in and week out Hawkeye fans continued to show why they are the best fan base in the country!
“My time at Iowa has been everything I have dreamt it would be, and I couldn’t be grateful and proud to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the swarm and play in Kinnick Stadium in front of the 70,000 Hawk fans! I will never forget the many great memories that have come from Iowa!
Midway through that November hot streak, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. called Epenesa the “biggest riser” on his draft board. He may very well be a first round pick.