BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bills rookie defensive lineman AJ Epenesa has slowly but surely been making strides for the Buffalo defense.
After sitting out the first week against the Jets, Epenesa says he’s worked hard to earn his spot on the field on game days.
“Discouraging, I wouldn’t say that, but it was a motivation. I didn’t have OTA’s, preseason, rookie minicamp, the list goes on of things this rookie class wasn’t able to do,” Epenesa said to reporters on Zoom on Thursday. “Week one, game one, just coming fresh off of camp, I’m still making strides, still working to get better every single day and maybe it just wasn’t time to get in yet, and I just needed another week of preparation. I used it as something to push me to keep working harder for the next week.”
Epenesa recorded his first career sack on Rams quarterback Jared Goff on Sunday (he said he immediately called his ecstatic parents after the game to talk about the sack), and he says that the help he has received from the veteran defensive line room has been instrumental for his growth both on and off the field.
“Having vets like Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Trent, we got a lot of veteran guys on that d-line and they all have been really helpful to me, whether it’s learning the defense outside of football, stuff like that, and just being friendly too,” Epenesa said. “I didn’t know a lot of people coming up here, and all of them have been really friendly and welcoming.
“It’s been a huge blessing for me to learn from guys like this. They’ve been in the league double digit years, multiple guys, so they know what they’re doing, and learning from those guys is something I should take advantage of while I have it.”
But even through the first two games of his NFL career, Epenesa says it’s still crazy to him when he takes the field.
“It was crazy, but the feeling without fans makes a huge difference when it comes to that butterfly feeling,” Epenesa said. “Being on the field with guys you’ve seen on tv and competing with guys you’ve seen on tv growing up, it’s something that meant a whole lot to me, it was an awesome feeling.”