Five-star prospect connects with culture through Polynesian Bowl

Local Sports

One of the prospects traveling the farthest this week to play in the inaugural Polynesian Bowl is also the highest touted.

AJ Epenesa, a five-star defensive end according to recruiting service, traveled 4,139 miles from his home in Edwardsville, Ill. to Oahu.

“It’s a big thing for me to be able to come around my family that I don’t get to see very often because obviously I live in Illinois,” said Epenesa, who has many relatives in the Aloha State. “Coming all the way out here to play this football game is a huge honor. To be around good competition here and there’s some big guys and there’s some people going to some pretty amazing schools.”Scout ranks Epenesa as the 21st overall prospect in the nation in the class of 2017.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder is following in his father’s footsteps. Eppy Epenesa played defensive line for the Hawkeyes in the 1990s after growing up in American Samoa.

AJ Epenesa finds a connection in Hawaii learning about his Polynesian heritage.

“It’s a huge honor to come back and represent your culture and be a part of your culture,” he said. “Just come back to get to know more about yourself and your ancestors to realize where you come from, how everything goes, and to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”

Epenesa will suit up for Team Ronnie Stanley in the game, which kicks off Saturday at 6 p.m. HST at Aloha Stadium.Click here for ticket information.

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