Iowa Star Says Playing For Falcons Would be a ‘Dream Come True’

Aj Epenesa

getty Defensive end A.J. Epenesa #94 of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Former Iowa Hawkeye, A.J. Epenesa said at the NFL Combine if the Falcons were to select him with the No. 16 overall pick it would be a dream come true.

Playing for the Falcons would give Epenesa a chance to play with his cousin, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner who is a defensive end just like Epenesa.

“His mom and my dad are brother and sister,” Epenesa said. “I grew up with him, it would be great to have the opportunity to play together. Growing up together, playing football, it’s kind of a dream of ours but it would be really cool if we have that opportunity.”

A Dream Come True

Epenesa has been projected to be the Falcons’ No. 16 pick in numerous mock drafts. He could be the defensive end the Falcons are looking for, and he would already have someone to show him the ropes once he got to camp.

Epenesa and Tuioti-Mariner grew up together, both having the same dream of playing in the NFL players.

23-year-old Tuioti-Mariner made his NFL dream come true out of UCLA in May of 2013 and Now Epenesa is expected to go in the first round of the draft.

Tuioti-Mariner spent the 2018 season and the first eight weeks of the 2019 season on Atlanta’s practice squad. It wasn’t until week 9 of 2019 he was promoted to the active roster. In eight games as a Falcon, he recorded 14 tackles and one quarterback hit.

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Hawkeyes Are Already ‘Pro Ready’

Epenesa is a 6-foot-6, 280-pound defensive end with a record of 26.5 sacks in his three seasons as a Hawkeye. He is known for his power, size, and understanding of how to get to the quarterback. He plays very smart and always has a plan of attack as a pass rusher.

If the Falcons do draft Epenesa first, he would have some high expectations right off the bat.

Both coach Dan Quinn and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff seem to have no worries that he could tackle his high expectations right away.

Dimitroff believes players that come out of the University of Iowa are often “pro ready.”

Epenesa is confident he can be a versatile player for the Falcons and his ability to rush from the inside and outside is what makes him unique.

“I feel like I can grow, there’s a lot of things I can do,” Epenesa said at the combine. “I can rush from the inside, from the outside. My best is outside because it’s what I’ve been doing. I feel like I can grow on the inside, I feel like I can grow when it comes to dropping in coverage, there’s a lot of things I can learn how to do.”

According to AtlantaFalcons.com coach Quinn values these kinds of traits from his defensive players, then again, what coach wouldn’t?

Alabama’s former edge rusher, Terrell Lewis also believes he is very versatile and fits well in Atlanta, so it will be interesting to see which one wins out first.

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