Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Kareem Ready To Show Defensive Line Talent In Cotton Bowl

December 24, 2018

Notre Dame defensive end Khalid Kareem went through some ups and downs over his first three seasons at Notre Dame, including three defensive coordinators. 

Defensive coordinator Clark Lea had a great first season as the Irish are one of the top defenses in the country and will look to slow down an explosive Clemson offense on December 29th in the Cotton Bowl. 

The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder was excited to hear Lea was getting the job last winter and despite Lea’s calm demeanor, Kareem says he can get fired up at times. 

“It’s funny sometimes,” laughed Kareem. “We’re in a meeting and he’ll be giving a speech and everyone kind of gets riled up. He’ll get really passionate about what he’s talking about and he’s up and down. He’s very level even though he does that in meetings.”

Lea might be the most intense before games as he tries to get his defensive unit psyched up.

“I would say before games, he comes and talks to us to get us going,” said Kareem. “That’s about it. He’s very level. He’s up in the booth, so we don’t see him during the game. He might be fired up there.” 

As for his own game, Kareem tallied 40 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2018 despite battling an ankle injury for all the year. 

“It’s been a good season I guess,” explained Kareem. “I feel I could have done better. I left a lot of production on the field. I still got a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but I can clean up a few things. Overall, it was a good season.” 

Notre Dame fans wanted more of Kareem this fall and they got just that as the Michigan native showed his toughness and grit on a weekly basis. 

It seemed like each week Kareem would hobble to the sideline and then a few plays later he’d be right back in the game. 

“It was four against Stanford, one against Michigan - that pain is something real,” Kareem said of his ankle. “Once I shake it off, I was good. 

“It’s all mental. Once the initial shock of the pain was gone, I’m good. I just need to tell myself to tape it up and I’m good. I know I need to be there for my team. I play a crucial role on this team. I know my role and what I have to do. I know I can’t be down for too long.” 

As with any successful year, Notre Dame will have to recruit juniors back for their senior season. While it might not seem like he should go, Kareem could be two big games on college football’s biggest stage away from having a tough decision. 

“I’ll definitely talk to my family and coaches about it,” stated Kareem. “I’m not too focused on it right now. I’m focused on Clemson.” 
When it comes to the Cotton Bowl, Kareem and his teammates have seen and heard the talk surrounding Clemson’s defensive line. 

The hype is definitely warranted, but it doesn’t mean the Irish won’t be out to show the country who the best defensive line in the nation is on December 29th.

“We know what we can do as a defensive line,” said Kareem. “We know what we can bring to the table and we’re one of the best defensive lines in the country. We really don’t listen too much to the outside noise. As long as we come and do what we know how to do, we’ll see who the best defensive line is.” 

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