Former ‘Ville standout A.J. Pena talks about his circuitous route to Rhode Island, via upstate New York

Former Somerville standout A.J. Pena will continue his college football career at Rhode Island. (Source: Twitter)

The COVID-19 pandemic upended just about everyone’s way of life, and every facet of life, since it arrived on the scene in March 2020 in the United States.

And that includes college football recruiting.

With the NCAA granting extra years of eligibility and non-FCS football playing in the Spring, it meant fewer opportunities – at least right away – for high school student-athletes who played their seasons in the fall.

The 2020 Central Jersey Sports Radio Defensive Player of the Year – Somerville’s A.J. Pena – should have likely received offers from all over, after being one of the most dominant players in the league; he recorded 12 sacks in just seven games.

Former Somerville defensive end A.J. Pena (center).

Instead, he took a year of prep school at Milford Academy in upstate, New York – “in the middle of nowhere” as Pena describes it – before landing at the University of Rhode Island, where he signed his National Letter of Intent on the first day of the December signing period.

We caught up with A.J. to talk about his time at Somerville, the influence of his former head coach Dallas Whitaker, and the long atypical path that took him to Rhode Island.

Click below to listen:

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