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Notre Dame Football

Captain Notes with Khalid Kareem | Navy Week

August 25, 2023

Insight is always craved in the Notre Dame football world whether it’s thoughts on the team or scoop on the top recruits in the country. 

What has been missing is insight from former Notre Dame players and that’s where current Indianapolis Colts defensive end Khalid Kareem has stepped up to the plate this season. 

Kareem will graciously take the time to share some weekly thoughts with me during 2023 campaign to give Notre Dame fans more insight on what players are going through or what it’s like to face the triple-option as you’ll read today. 

But first, a quick update on Kareem, who is entering his second season with the Colts. Kareem is entering his fourth season in the NFL after spending two years with the AFC powerhouse Cincinnati Bengals, which included playing in Super Bowl LVI where he made two tackles.

Kareem has also held an incredible presence in the Cincinnati and Indianapolis communities including joining the WAVE Foundation board at the Newport Aquarium as he has a passion for marine biology. 

However, it’s football season. 

Notre Dame and Navy will kick off the college football season in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday afternoon as part of the 2023 Aer Lingus College Football Classic. 

Marcus Freeman has documented the logistics of traveling to and from Ireland, but now, all attention with turn towards Navy’s triple-option attack. It’s never a walk in park as Notre Dame found out in 2022 despite taking a 35-13 lead into the half last fall. 

Kareem faced the triple-option more than a few times in his career and provided a few keys for the Irish defense and it starts with being assignment sound. 

“The challenge of facing the triple option is literally how many options there are for the ball the go,” Kareem explained. “Everyone has to play assignment football and do their job. The minute someone tries to do too much or 10 people are doing their job and one isn’t, explosive plays happen.” 

And despite the quality looks the Notre Dame scout team has provided over the last month, it will take the defense a series to adjust to the speed Navy runs its detailed attack. 

“The game is fast at first,” stated Kareem. “But after you’ve played against it so many times and go through the reps in practice, it all slows down.” 

Team chemistry is crucial at all levels and we told ISD readers early in the summer that this was an extremely close team. There is a high care factor in The Gug and it starts from the top down as Freeman has emphasized culture. 

Kareem was part of the first Notre Dame team to make the College Football Playoff as the Fighting Irish completed a perfect 12-0 season. 

Were there signs in the offseason behind closed doors that allowed folks in The Gug to see a special season coming? Yes, and it started with the bond in the locker room. 

“That 2018 team was special,” Kareem said. “It was the culmination of us going 4-8 two years before and just getting the right people in a position to make plays. That’s what helped us make the playoffs. 

“But to be honest, it was the love we had for each other that got us to 12-0 and in the College Football Playoff. From the themed workouts, “knockout” - we played whenever we had a spare second - and a common goal of wanting to be the best is what got us there.” 

Sam Hartman transferred to Notre Dame in January and was voted a captain eight months later. Sure, the experience and stats are there, but to win over a locker room at a place like Notre Dame isn’t easy, especially when you consider he was battling Tyler Buchner in the spring. 

Kareem was recently on a Cincinnati Bengals team that made the Super Bowl and the run was led by a quarterback leading the entire organization. Hartman doesn’t necessarily have to pull a Joe Burrow, but it was significant he was named captain in Kareem’s eyes. 

“The benefit of having your QB as team captain is huge, especially at Notre Dame where it’s player-voted,” said Kareem. “Knowing you have the trust of the 100+ guys in the locker room to go out there week in and week out to get the job done and lead the team speaks volumes.” 

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