IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa has been named to the 2019 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List. The announcement was made by the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, which is responsible for honoring the nation’s best defensive IMPACT player at the end of the season.
The 42 nominees represent the finest in college football — defensive players who have had the biggest IMPACT on their teams both on and off the field. IMPACT stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. The Foundation has donated more than $1.5 million to various charities since its inception in 2004, including nearly $700,000 to universities.
Epenesa (6-foot-6, 280 pounds) led the Big Ten Conference and ranked 12th nationally with 10.5 sacks in 2018. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. His season totals included 37 tackles, with 16.5 tackles for loss. He recorded four forced fumbles, four pass break-ups, and one fumble recovery.
Epenesa was one of five finalists for the Polynesian Player of the Year in 2918. He was named co-Defensive Player of the Week in the Big Ten following his play in wins over Illinois and Iowa State. Epenesa recorded two sacks against Iowa State, with a forced fumble.
Epenesa, a native of Glen Carbon, Illinois, recorded a career-best eight tackles at Illinois, with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He caused and recovered a fumble, returning the recovery 19 yards for a touchdown. He also had a blocked punt that led to an Iowa touchdown on the following play. His sack and forced fumble in the 27-22 Outback Bowl victory over No. 18 Mississippi State led to Iowa’s final touchdown.
The Lott IMPACT Watch List includes 18 linebackers, 13 defensive backs and 11 defensive linemen. Ten players from the Big Ten Conference are included on the Watch List.
Former Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell was the recipient of the Lott IMPACT Trophy in 2017, while defensive end Anthony Nelson was named to the Watch List a year ago. James Morris was a finalist for the award in 2013, and Desmond King was a semifinalist in 2016.
Candidates are evaluated during the season with a Player of the Week chosen each week (and his school receiving $1,000 for its general scholarship fund). The four finalists will attend the Lott IMPACT Trophy Banquet in Newport Beach (with his school receiving $25,000 for its general scholarship fund) in December.
The Hawkeyes open their season Aug. 31 against Miami, Ohio in Kinnick Stadium.