‘You knew he was going to be really good'

Bills DigestJune-July 2020

‘You knew he was going to be really good'
For more on Buffalo’s top pick, Bills Digest recently caught up with Iowa defensive line coach Kelvin Bell. Bell helped groom A.J. Epenesa to become one of the most productive defensive ends in the country by the end of Epenesa’s time with the Hawkeyes.

BD: How would you describe A.J. as a player? We know about his size and strength, but how does he stack up in your eyes?

KB: The best thing about A.J. isn’t the physical side; it’s just the type of personality and the character and the integrity that you’re getting. He’s been a guy that for his entire life he’s been bigger and better than everybody. You see videos and pictures of A.J. when he was younger, he just towers over kids. He’s always been a much bigger, much more physically gifted guy than everybody he’s ever been around. When he got to college and he got around guys that were just as big, just as fast, just as strong, that’s when we saw another piece of A.J. just in terms of the work ethic that was instilled in him from being at home with his parents where he was a guy that a lot of people saw, oh, a five-star recruit, this that and the other, that he would come in and be the guy right away. And he was the first to admit that he had a lot to learn. He had a lot of physical tools, a lot of physical gifts but things just weren’t refined yet. And credit to him that during his time here just a humble guy, never expected much and fit really well with our culture at Iowa just trying to improve by doing the little things everyday and he did that.

BD: I’m sure with the talent that you get at that school that you’ve seen both ends of it — you get a lot of top recruits who come in and think they’re set and they’re in for a world of hurt, and then you’ve got the others who know how to work and dig deep. How was his process as far as realizing and acknowledging that he had to put in the work and that everything wasn’t going to come easy?

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June-July 2020