Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Khalid Kareem Expects Notre Dame's Defensive Line To Be Elite

March 6, 2019

Defensive end Khalid Kareem remained patient for the first two seasons at Notre Dame. The 6-foot-4, 262-pounder played sparingly as a freshman and as a sophomore, Kareem played in 11 games, but the switch flipped in 2018 along with much more playing time. 

The Michigan native officially recorded 43 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and five pass deflections as a junior, which led to a tough decision for Kareem following the season. 

Kareem chose to return to Notre Dame for his senior season and one of the driving factors was the fact the Cotton Bowl didn’t go as planned. 

“It was semi-difficult,” stated Kareem of his decision. “I talked to my coaches and then I had long and deep conversations with my parents. I felt I had more to give to this University and this team. I wanted to finish my degree and finish what we started last year. 

“That loss left a sour taste in our mouths. I wanted to come back and win it all.” 

The Irish kicked off spring ball over the weekend, but the work started as soon as Kareem decided to return to Notre Dame. 

Matt Balis and Kareem laid out specific goals to help Kareem improve physically in his final season.

“I would say we talked about putting on a little more muscle and getting stronger overall to take on run blocks,” said Kareem. “We talked about being the same guy day in and day out.” 

While Kareem is healthy now, the Notre Dame standout wasn’t healthy during the season, which might make his numbers even more impressive. 

“I played through a little bit of pain,” explained Kareem. “I injured my left ankle against Michigan in week one. I had another high ankle sprain on my right and that was a little bit worse against Vanderbilt. I didn’t have time to recover. We had to play, so I played a little bit banged up, but that’s part of football.

“I feel good. I’m back.” 

Kareem wasn’t the only defensive end who decided to return to Notre Dame as classmate Julian Okwara turned down the NFL to join classmates Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji. 

The four defensive ends have experience, talent and a hunger to push Notre Dame to be one of the best defensive lines in the nation.

“I feel we can be one of the best defensive lines in the country,” Kareem stated. “We have a lot of great guys and a lot of young guys will step up and give us some good run this year. This is one of the focal points of this team.” 

To be the best defensive line in the country and Kareem recognizes it starts with him. Kareem has taken on a leadership role in his defensive line room, but also with the entire team.  

“I’m really not letting anything slide,” Kareem said. “If a guy messes up, I don’t have to yell at him during the play or practice, but I can pull him aside to let him know how to fix it. Sometimes I talk or text Kurt and send him a video of what he did wrong or what he could do to improve. I want to help them in their development but also show them how to do it right on the field.” 

Defensive line coach Mike Elston is in charge of developing and molding the defensive line, but Kareem also has another commanding voice in his ear to keep him motivated and on the right path.”

“Football never stops with him,” Kareem said of his father, Ken. “He literally just texted me about some stuff. Whenever I go home, or I go home, it’s football, football, football. It’s in good doses. We definitely have a good father-son relationship where we talk about sports, but he doesn’t carry it other the parts.

“He’s been my coach for most of my life until my junior year of high school. He knows how to get those results he wants out of me and the right things to say.”

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