Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara Ready To Lead & Be Unstoppable

August 12, 2019

The suspense of the 2019 Notre Dame football captains came to an end on Saturday as head coach Brian Kelly announced seven captains. 
Defensive ends Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara are one of the nation’s top combos off the edge (if not the top) and now both will be in leadership positions this fall. 
“There are so many guys who could have been captains,” Kareem said. “This team is full of leaders. It doesn’t matter what position group it is because there are leaders around. We’re blessed to be named captains.”  
Kareem being named captain came as somewhat as a surprise as he’s more reserved and a guy who leads by his actions, which he modeled after a former Notre Dame captain. 
“I would say Josh Adams,” Kareem said of who he looked up to when he was a young player. “He wasn’t the most vocal, but he did everything the right way. Guys looked to him when they were struggling. Josh was always doing the right things and picking his teammates up.” 
Okwara will now turn his attention to making sure the younger players in the defensive line room stay up as reps will go up for some and down for others. However, one thing is clear, there is a plethora of depth in Mike Elston’s room and it has everyone excited. 
“We have a lot of guys who can play,” explained Okwara. “Being able to rotate and keep guys fresh – I think we have a great group of defensive line guys who are doing an awesome job. They are getting in their playbook and they want to learn. They take the coaching and I think that’s something you need to learn as a freshman. You have to take criticism and learn from the older guys. 
“Everyone is out there doing their job, listening and taking the coaching. They’re doing a great job.” 
The Charlotte native knows it’s a crucial time to keep spirits high as the transition from being a star to a role player or redshirting isn’t an easy one. 
“You go from high school being the guy to college where everyone is talented,” stated Okwara. “It’s tough to keep your head straight sometimes. We get it. No one is mad, but we want you to get better. When the coaches yell at you, they aren’t mad you. They want you to get better. 
“I can definitely relate to those guys a lot. I barely played my freshman year. You never know what happens in a season. Being able to relate to them is why we have so many great leaders on the team.” 
Accountability seems to be a trigger word heading into the 2019 season as the Irish saw holding each other accountable has paid off the last two seasons. With trips to Michigan, Georgia and Stanford on the schedule, the work and time put in now will benefit everyone in tough moments on the road.
“We were accountable back then, but each year, we’re building on what we had in the past,” Kareem explained. “We were very accountable last year and we’re going to hold that tradition.” 
Kareem has also been pleased with the start of camp. It took a few practices to shake off the rust, but when the pads came on, the stars also came out. 
“This defensive line unit we have now is incredible,” said Kareem. “Everyone is rushing together this year, Daelin (Hayes), Julian, Ade (Ogundeji), Jamir (Jones), Kurt (Hinish) and Myron (Tagovailoa-Amosa). 

"We’re going to be unstoppable this year.”

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