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Notre Dame Football

Ade wrapping up special Notre Dame journey

December 4, 2020

Nothing about Ade Ogundeji's path to Notre Dame was standard, so it seems only fitting that the Fighting Irish senior defensive end is preparing for his final game inside Notre Dame Stadium in an unprecedented season amidst unprecedented success.

Ogundeji, after all, was a late addition to the Irish's 2016 signing class, being plucked from a verbal commitment to Western Michigan.

Now he's a team captain, key cog in a program with a 23-game home winning splurge and burnishing his NFL chances each week.

“It's been a very long journey,” said Ogundeji, a 6-foot-4-plus, 268-pounder from West Bloomfield, Michigan. “I've been very blessed to be in this position with so many guys who have come through here.

“Definitely my first year it was a struggle, but we've just continually gotten better as a team. And myself, I've continued to get better. I think that's what it comes down to in life, just growth throughout the whole times.”

Ogundeji's growth at Notre Dame both is testament to his commitment and work ethic, as well as his centered approach. He is, after all, the guy who's routinely worn a rubber bracelet on his arm to bond with the young son of one of Ogundeji's high school coaches at Walled Lake Central High School.

Likewise, he's one of the most animated players for the No. 2 Irish (9-0, 8-0 ACC), who host Syracuse Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in their regular-season finale.

“He's playing with that same vibrant kind of emotion that he played with last year,” said ND coach Brian Kelly, seeking to wrap up his third undefeated regular season as the Irish helmsman. “We're really seeing the same guy we saw last year. We didn't see that quite as much.

“Maybe playing with a 'C' (for captain) on his shirt was affecting him a little bit, trying to be perfect. Playing with a lot more reps. But now he's playing his best football. Stronger and again really impacting our football team.”

Indeed, Ogundeji has 10 tackles in his last four games --- 3.5 of them for losses. He's got a quarterback hurry as well during that span.

More importantly, he echoes Kelly's sentiments of a practice-field overhaul as keying his season-ending surge.

“Last year I was behind (Khalid Kareem), I wasn't getting as much reps as I am now, so it was a different pace that I wasn't used to,” Ogundeji said of this season's start. “I had to get used to it. So I realized that in practice I have to go twice as hard as I usually do because I'm going to be in the game twice as much.

“Just for me, I had that attitude in practice that I had to keep going, I had to bring it 100% every single time. Even in individual drills, I had to continue to work hard and push myself so that when it's game time, I don't have to worry about that.”

Already with 40 career games in an Notre Dame uniform, Ogundeji is ready to celebrate Saturday with his family making the roughly 215-mile drive southwest from the Detroit suburbs. His already inked memories as an Irish standout include 15.5 career tackles for losses, five forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries; Ogundeji's likewise been a contributor in 42 Notre Dame wins since the start of the 2017 season.

“I think it's just so much,” Ogundeji said of his family's everlasting support. “My mom and dad and my brother have done so much for me, they've been there every step of the way. Even the struggling times, they've been there for me.

“It's going to be an emotional and great time for me.”

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