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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Clark Lea & Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah Have Formed Special Bond

December 30, 2020

Notre Dame has a new Butkus Award winner as Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is the third Irish linebacker to win the Award. 

It's been a journey for the Virginia native as it took patience to reach this point, but Owusu-Koramoah put his faith in defensive coordinator Clark Lea and it's paid off. 

"He's been a difference-maker," Owusu-Koramoah said. "He's been a different type of coach. I've never had a type of coach like Coach Lea. He doesn't yell much. He doesn't complain much. He's really a guy that's hard-nosed and is truly gritty.

"All my life, I've had coaches that had that aggressive nature, that yell, and that has what made me who I am today and I'm appreciative of that. But Coach Lea has a different style. He's more a technical, analytical type of guy who wants you to understand the philosophies of the world, wants you to understand the philosophies of football." 

The philosophical style got Owusu-Koramoah's attention. Lea able to reach the star linebacker and Owusu-Koramoah's life changed on and off the field once he embraced the lessons from his coach.

"I think that approach has ultimately made me reach this kind of almost holistic football player. I haven't got there yet, nowhere close," explained Owusu-Koramoah. "But I think that's ultimately led me in the right direction with him being a difference-maker for me in every area of my life." 

Lea has also been impressed with how Owusu-Koramoah has embraced the process as it was just that. The success didn't happen overnight and it was earned on the practice field. 

"There's a willingness to be coached and developed," explained Lea. "There's like a humility involved in that, where it takes a certain personality to step back and say, 'Hey, this is something I really want; I'm not where I need to be; and, Coach, how do I get to where I need to be?'

"That's never easy and it's certainly not without hiccups along the way. But for Wu, his development off the field has been as important as -- really has kind of translated into his development on the field. I'm talking specifically just about structuring his day, just being on top of all the little things that this program demands of you, the attention to detail." 

That attention to detail has led Owusu-Koramoah to become a presence in the locker room and in the Notre Dame culture. 

"He's really flourished on this campus, that has absolutely transferred to his on-field performance," stated Lea. "It's allowed him to reach for his potential as a player and I still think that we're continuing to push for that highest level for him. That's what's exciting for him moving forward." 

Owusu-Koramoah is also an example for younger players coming into the program. He redshirted, got hurt and didn't play over his first two years on campus, but he stuck with the process. 

"It's been crazy, just to look at the way that I kind of progressed over time, from going to scout team and having to play D end, having to play D end against Mike McGlinchey and playing middle linebacker and rush against Quenton Nelson and guys like that," laughed Owusu-Koramoah. "Going through that process and kind of watching the guys, how they handled themselves, even Brandon Wimbush. Just watching those guys on the defensive side, when I was in scout, not really having the ability to be in the defense, being in the game plan and stuff like that.

"Now I can be relatable to some of those guys that are on scout team. I can be relatable to some of those guys that aren't where they need to be or where they want to be.

"And ultimately, that ultimately allows me to be a type of leader I want to be - because how can I guide you down a path I haven't seen before?"

Leadership is also another aspect Owusu-Koramoah takes great pride in. While he might not be a captain, he's a leader and it's come easy to Owusu-Koramoah. He just needed time.

"You know what I'm saying is you're born a leader," Owusu-Koramoah said. "I don't think you can form somebody as much as you want to try. I don't think you can form somebody into being a leader as much as you try to teach them and do all these certain things.

"Take a look at nature. You have a lion. A lion's not the biggest, not the fastest, not the tallest person, but what makes him the king of his kingdom was his attitude and that attitude was instilled in him at birth." 

What has been the most significant lesson learned from Lea? 

"The biggest thing I've learned from Coach Lea is probably the art of words," Owusu-Koramoah explained. "He always talks about the art of words, how it can be a distraction, how it can cause you to ultimately live in a different world and forget about your true talent, forget about what got you to the place that you're in right now.

"I think I've learned that always leave the situation that you're in, the program that you're in, better than you found it in some way, shape or form and I think Coach Lea is a good mentor and a good representation of that.

"I think those are the two key things that I take away from Coach Lea, is the art of words and how it can distract you and how you have to focus on yourself and not let the compliments, you know, get to your head, not let the compliments overshadow who you truly are because ultimately what matters is the performance. So you have all the words, and then you have leaving a place better than you found it."

Lea will leave Notre Dame sooner than later for Vanderbilt and Owusu-Koramoah will likely do the same as the NFL has fallen in love with his potential. 

It's also safe to say both will leave Notre Dame better than they found it. 

"It's been fun to be part of that process," said Lea. "These are the stories that, as a coach, they fuel you. I'm excited for Wu. I'm excited for what his future holds. I'm excited for him to play on Friday. I know this is a big game for him, and he's ready to go out there and compete at his highest level. 

"It's been a great time with him here at Notre Dame. Very proud of what he's accomplished." 

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