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Notre Dame Football

Khalid Kareem Focused on His Process, Excited for Notre Dame's Future

February 28, 2020

Over the last two seasons, Notre Dame fans have learned defensive end Khalid Kareem was one of the toughest players to ever come through the program. 

They saw the 6-foot-4, 268-pounder pick himself up off the ground countless times and run off the field only to return a few plays later. 

On Thursday, Kareem revealed to the country he was probably tougher than most Notre Dame fans even realized. 

"I tore my labrum against Duke on November 9th," Kareem stated at the NFL Combine. "The quarterback stepped up in the pocket and I reached inside to try to sack him. I fell on my shoulder. 

"I got it repaired on January 21st by Dr. (James) Andrews. I'm only five weeks out now. I won't be doing anything this week at the Combine, but Pro Day, I'll be able to run around. I won't be able to do bag drills. For rookie mini-camp, I'll be almost 100 percent, but no contact. Training camp, I'll be 100 percent ready to go." 

The Kareem family sought the advice of Dr. Brian Ratigan following the MRI and were comfortable enough letting him play his final game against Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl.

"It was like maybe two weeks before the Iowa State game," explained Kareem. "I talked to my family and I was good enough to go. I knew my 60 percent was better than some guys 100 percent. I wanted to finish what I started with my guys. I was captain of the team and I knew my guys needed me there. 

"I couldn't look myself in the mirror knowing I had something left in the tank and I didn't give it for my team." 

Surgery is never an easy decision, but Kareem knew he had to get it now to be ready for his rookie year. NFL teams aren’t overly concerned as several have remained in contact with Kareem’s camp during his recovery and over 20 have already met with him at the NFL Combine as of Thursday night.

"It's a little tough and frustrating," Kareem said of not being able to workout. "I have to trust my process. I can't look at anyone else's process. I have to focus on my treatment and recovery. I'll be good at the end of the day." 

The Michigan native also made a call to LA Chargers defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, who played with a torn labrum during his senior season at Notre Dame. 

"It was motivating, but I leaned on Jerry to talk to him and get some advice knowing how his process and thoughts were," said Kareem. "He basically said to trust myself. I know what I could do on the field and I could make it through the process." 

Tillery wasn't the only player Kareem reached out to for advice on dealing with a torn labrum. 

Kareem made sure to contact one of his best friends, Notre Dame senior Daelin Hayes, who has a long history of labrum issues. 

"He was just saying to stay motivated," Kareem stated. "He said to keep my spirits high. His recovery went best when he was in good spirits. That's where I am now. I'm happy and blessed to be here." 

Hayes and Kareem entered college together, but one is headed to the NFL and one will return for a fifth-year in South Bend because of a torn labrum. 

"Daelin is going to be the man," said Kareem. "He's probably one of the smartest players I've ever played with. I think he's going to be the leader on the field. He'll probably be a team captain this year, so he's definitely someone to watch out for." 

While Kareem is high on Hayes for good reason, but he is also high on a few other edge players who will get their shot under the bright lights in the fall. 

"Ade (Ogundeji) is going to really nice," Kareem said. "People really need to watch out for Justin Ademilola. He's been sitting in the shadows a little bit, but he's been working. I think he'll have a great year." 

The players filling the void of Kareem likely found themselves in a similar boat over the last few years. Kareem had his patience tested early in his career, but waited for his time. 

"I had to trust my process," explained Kareem. "I kept my head down and kept working. Once I got the starting role, I never wanted to give it up because I knew guys were behind me were hungry and ready to take my spot. I was never content. 

"Having coaches like Coach (Clark) Lea and Coach (Mike) Elston challenged me to be even better. I was already at a high level, but it was about staying consistent and staying at that point." 

As for where the Notre Dame program stands, Kareem feels the loss at Georgia was a statement and 2019 was a year the Fighting Irish can build on. 

"The main thing I took away was we were an elite team," Kareem said. "We fell short. We were six points away from winning it. A few mishaps early on could have changed the game. I feel we should have catapulted from that loss. We had a tough loss against Michigan, but we found our true identity after that Michigan game. 

"I felt we were playing like it was a Friday night in high school. We knew we probably weren't going to get to the National Championship, so at that point, we were playing for each other. That's probably some of the most fun I've had playing football." 


Special thanks to Vahid Sadrzadeh of ABC57 for the audio. 

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