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Notre Dame Football

Why Brandon Joseph Felt Ready for NFL after One Season at Notre Dame

March 3, 2023

Brandon Joseph’s lone season at Notre Dame didn’t turn out quite like he hoped it would. The goal was to compete for a national championship and once again establish himself as a top-flight, ball-hawking safety ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. 

At Notre Dame in 2022, the Fighting Irish lost their first two games — immediately dropping out of the College Football Playoff hunt — and Joseph secured just one interception. It came on the first play against Syracuse when he jumped in front of a pass from Garrett Shrader and returned it for a touchdown. 

“I was talking to my mom pregame like, ‘I’m going to get into the end zone,’” Joseph said. “To do it on the first play was big.”

His interceptions per season have steadily declined since a redshirt freshman year that vaulted the former three-star prospect onto NFL Draft boards. 

He picked off six passes in six games at Northwestern in 2020, followed by three interceptions in 12 contests the following season. 

This past fall, Joseph also suffered a high-ankle sprain in a 35-14 win over No. 5 Clemson. The injury hampered him for the rest of the season and the Irish lost him on defense for two contests.

“I had never missed a game in my career up to that point,” Joseph said. “It was the first time I had to go through that experience sitting on the sideline through practice and games. To get over that mental hump, to see how it is to sit out and eventually come back, it’s something that will make me stronger in the long run.”

Still, he declared for the 2023 NFL Draft upon the completion of the 2022 season. Even though his time in South Bend didn’t meet every expectation, he still believes Notre Dame prepared him to take the next step in his football career. 

“It allowed me to become the best player that I could be,” Joseph said.
“The coaches continued to push me and to make me better. Knowing that I’m a veteran coming in, they didn’t hold them back. I was able to continuously get better and build my confidence to know I’m exactly where I need to be right now.”

An up-and-down senior season didn’t deter the NFL from inviting Joseph to the 2023 combine. He will participate in workouts on Thursday beginning at 3 p.m. EST on the NFL Network.

He’s trained at EXOS in Dallas with Brent Calloway to prepare for the scouting spectacle.

“That’s one of the best spots in the country to train,” Joseph said. [It’s] a very solidified place. I have high expectations for myself to perform the best I can.”

Joseph isn’t viewed as a burner or athletic marvel. He’ll likely test behind the top safety prospects in the 2023 draft class like Alabama’s Brian Branch and Texas A&M’s Antonio Johnson.

What Joseph must avoid is a performance like the one former Irish safety Jalen Elliott produced in 2020 by running a disastrous 4.8-second 40-yard dash. That time dropped him from a potential early-round pick on Day 3 to an undrafted free agent. 

If Joseph can at least run in the 4.5-second range, he should dispel the doubts teams might have in his athleticism, and there’s still a chance Joseph can be the Day 2 pick draft analyst expected him to be prior to the 2022 season.

While Joseph’s interception numbers declined in 2022, his film should still intrigue plenty of NFL scouts and front office members. At Notre Dame, he gained experience playing to both the field and the boundary, depending on the formation. He’s one of the few safeties in his draft class that can play to the deep middle, inside the box and nickel. 

“I'm a versatile player that can play deep but also, I've got the knowledge to know where my fit is at all times,” Joseph said. “When I get into a defensive scheme, I'm excited to see how they want me to play and I know that I'll do my job at all times.”

Where Joseph feels he’s the most prepared to succeed is inside an NFL locker room. At Notre Dame, he competed for playing time against future NFL players on a daily basis and learned how to assimilate into a pre-established culture.

“I was able to join a team with a lot of seniors, a lot of veterans,” Joseph said. “It’s very much like when I enter the NFL, I’m joining a team with a lot of high-value players. I’m going to have to figure out how to enter that culture and be dominant in it. I think I was able to do that at Notre Dame, and it really prepared me for entering the NFL.”

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