The array of pass-rushing techniques were unheard of for players so young, and more often than not, offensive linemen were helpless to defend the jab, swim or rip moves utilized by Eppy Epenesa’s Little Tigers defensive linemen.

The former Iowa standout wouldn’t settle for simple bull-rushes. He demanded more from his Pee-Wee charges, including his 9-year-old son, A.J., and wanted to pass on as much as possible from the lessons of his own playing days. The younger Epenesa thrived. 

“I was pretty lucky being able to have a mentor like him in the house all the time, someone who knows the game of football as well as he does,” A.J. Epenesa said Thursday from the NFL scouting combine. “Anyone who has a football dad who played the same position as them are lucky to have coaching like that. It made it a little bit easier to start off.”

The tutelage not only provided a foundation on that elementary level of play but also helped carry Epenesa on his journey as a three-time All-American in high school and a decorated career at Iowa.