It was a rollercoaster of an NFL Draft for A.J. Epenesa.
The former Hawkeye had hopes of being taken in the first round on Thursday, but fell to the middle of the second round on Friday.
“I was No. 54. There’s 53 other people that were picked in front of me,” said Epenesa via Zoom conference. “I just needed one team to give me an opportunity and that’s what the Bills have done. I’m looking to make the most of it.”
The extra motivation is now there after he plummeted. A slow 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine caused the former Hawkeye to drop.
“I guess I’ve never considered myself a speed guy. I’ve never really wowed anybody ever,” Epenesa said.
Buffalo and general manager Brandon Beane swooped in and selected Epenesa with the team’s first pick of the draft.
“You know how I care about that stuff. I’m looking for football players and he’s a damn good football player,” Beane said via Zoom conference.
No one in the Big Ten is going to argue that, but Epenesa knows he is now just another guy in the NFL.
“I’m starting from the bottom and I’ve got to work myself up. No one, obviously, on the team knows about me, they don’t know anything about me,” Epenesa said. “I’ve got to come in ready to work and prove myself to my teammates.”
Beane said it’s that mindset coming from Iowa that fits in with the Bills’ blue-collar approach.
“He’s not gonna win the sexy appeal. I get that, but we’re Buffalo. Nobody thinks there’s anything sexy about Buffalo, so he’s gonna fit us well. He’s a good, old Iowa boy,” Beane said.
Epenesa will now get a chance to prove to the rest of the league that passing on him was a mistake.
“We aspire to be the toughest players on the field the smartest and the most physical and it really comes down to the basics of football,” Epenesa said. “I’m really excited to go an organization like this, because of the similarities. It’s like I’ve already kind of maybe got my feet wet a little bit.”