2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 91 of 163

Okwara's approach is in no small part why this highly gifted drop end returned for his senior season when he could have jumped to the NFL after a junior year that included 61 quarterback pressures (fourth nationally among Power 5 Conference defensive ends per Pro Football Focus) and a tie with former Irish lineman Jerry Tillery for a team-best eight sacks. "I have a lot of goals that I need to finish, that I didn't feel like I did last year," Okwara said when explaining the reasons for his return. "I want to be the best defensive end in the country. I want to lead the nation in sacks. I have so many goals that I want to finish and actually achieve before I leave this place." Okwara's decision kept him on the identi- cal career path blazed by older brother Ro- meo Okwara, now the reigning sack leader from last season with the NFL's Detroit Li- ons. Romeo played at Notre Dame from 2012-15 and exhausted his fourth year of eligibility in order to graduate and improve before chasing and then realizing his NFL riches. "With our family, education is the most BY TODD D. BURLAGE J ulian Okwara plays the game of life with the same zest he plays football — leave nothing on the table, satisfy every curiosity, carry no regrets. All the way back to youth sports, Okwara's ap- proach made him impossible to pin down, running his par- ents ragged as he juggled athletic endeavors that included tennis, soccer, swimming and football, just to name a few. "I just always wanted to do something to keep the energy going," said Okwara, who vows he would still dominate any of his Irish teammates in a tennis match. END Defensive bookends Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem return for their senior seasons with lofty goals 90 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Kareem played through injuries last season to account for 42 total stops, tie for second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and finish third with 4.5 sacks. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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