Harty: Epenesa protecting highly touted son

Pat Harty

Under most circumstances, being turned down for an interview is a real bummer in my line of work.

But there are exceptions, times when remaining silent is probably the best approach to take.

Pat Harty

Former Iowa football player Epenesa Epenesa is taking that approach with his son A.J. Epenesa, who already has an incredible list of scholarship offers for football despite only being a high school sophomore.

Not many kids could say they had offers from the likes of Florida State and Oklahoma before they were old enough to drive, but that's the case with A.J., who is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end from Edwardsville, Ill.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was impressed with A.J. enough to offer him a scholarship in June after meeting him in person.

It's a good story, but it's also a story that has plenty of time to develop. You have to admire Epenesa Epenesa, who lettered as a defensive lineman at Iowa in 1997, for trying to ease his son into the recruiting spotlight.

I reached out to Epenesa this week for an interview and with the hope of speaking to A.J., but Epenesa respectfully declined. My initial response was disappointment until I read the explanation that Epenesa sent on Facebook.

"Patrick thank you for the message. Like I told most of the media local & outside I am not a fan of interviews especially my son. I would love for his process to be low key & let him enjoy the moment of being a kid. He hasn't play a down for his sophomore year yet... It's crazy as it is right now I am trying to calm it in a respectful way for him to enjoy his young life. I hope you understand sir and when that time comes He's all yours... Respectfully, Epenesa."

How can you argue with such sound logic?

How can you complain about a father who is simply trying to maintain some normalcy in his young son's soon-to-be chaotic life as a star football recruit?

There will be plenty of opportunities to interview A.J. Epenesa down the road. But there isn't much time for A.J. to be a kid because his status as a star football recruit won't allow it to last much longer.

That's why his father is hanging on to whatever precious time they have now. And more power to him.

As for his recruitment, A.J. is emerging as one of the top prospects in the 2017 senior class. In addition to Iowa, Florida State and Oklahoma, he also reportedly has scholarship offers from Michigan State, Wisconsin, Missouri, Oregon State, Vanderbilt, Utah and Washington State.

And that's without having played in a single game as a high school sophomore.

A.J. Epenesa is one of two heralded recruits from the 2017 class whose father played football at Iowa.

Sophomore defensive back Isaiah Pryor, who is the son of former Iowa defensive lineman Richard Pryor, also has an impressive list of scholarship offers from schools that include Iowa, Ohio State, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina State and Indiana.

Iowa offered Isaiah Pryor a scholarship in early June, much to the delight of his father, who still visits his alma mater on a regular basis despite living in Georgia.

"It's important to me that he goes to a school for him and not my legacy or whatever I've done," Richard Pryor said shortly after Ferentz offered isaiah a scholarship. "He's the one that has to go to school for four years. He has to feel comfortable with his coaches.

"That's why it was kind of good that Iowa offered because he knows the staff and he's been going there for years, so he is comfortable there."

In other football recruiting news, running back/defensive Marquise Doherty recently trimmed his list of schools to five with Iowa making the cut, along with Missouri, Oregon, Louisville and Kansas State.

The 6-foot, 193-pound Doherty, who is from Kansas City, Mo., is also an accomplished baseball and plans to play both sports in college. Doherty attends the same high school from which Iowa freshman fullback Aaron Mends graduated this past spring.

Doherty is ranked as a four-star recruit by both and as a three-star recruit by

CLASS COUNT: Iowa currently has 14 players committed to its 2015 recruiting class, all of whom are high school seniors.

Center James Daniels was the last player to commit on July 31, picking the Hawkeyes over Alabama and Ohio State. Daniels is from Warren, Ohio and is the younger brother of Iowa sophomore running back LeShun Daniels.