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Blue & Gold Illustrated

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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18 OCT. 7, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TODD D. BURLAGE O vercoming and overachieving have become an overriding theme for the football career of Notre Dame senior Ad- etokunbo Ogundeji. The Irish defensive end with the Scrabble-winning name didn't even start playing football until eighth grade. Before that, he was a soccer player and, self-admittedly, a reck- less and over-aggressive one. So, by the time Ogundeji (pro- nounced OH-gun-day-gee) took up football, he remained well behind his classmates in terms of knowledge base and skill set, but never in desire. "Even then, I wasn't playing de- fensive end. I was playing offensive guard and tackle," Ogundeji said of his football orientation, "I'm still try- ing to learn the game and grasp it." Coming from little-known Walled Lake Central High School 40 miles northwest of Detroit, Ogundeji was barely a blip on anyone's recruiting radar, especially among the premier schools in football. In fact, about the only college scholarship offer Ogundeji carried for several months was one that came during his high school junior year from Western Michigan of the Mid-American Conference. "All my offers were kind of a shock to me," said Ogundeji, who jumped at the Western Michigan invite and verbally committed to then-Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck. But marked improvement, intrigu- ing potential and a solid camp tour in the summer of 2015 before his se- nior season unexpectedly changed Ogundeji's college plans and his ca- reer trajectory when Notre Dame ex- tended a scholarship offer. "I definitely was shocked," said Ogundeji, who landed his offer after an Irish summer camp, "I didn't re- ally expect it." Wanting surety that the Irish coaches wouldn't change their minds, Ogundeji quickly changed his mind. "Notre Dame has so much tradi- tion and so many great people here," he said of his commitment flip. "The fans are great. Students are great. The faculty's great. I definitely couldn't say no to this place." Scholarship and roster spot se- cured, the uphill battle for Ogundeji was only beginning. Notre Dame's high-powered re- cruiting class of defensive ends in 2016 included: Khalid Kareem, pre- viously an Alabama commit; Dae- lin Hayes, a former USC commit; and Julian Okwara, an All-America candidate this year whose brother played at Notre Dame from 2013-16. All three current Irish linemen are projected as NFL Draft picks in 2020. Meanwhile, Ogundeji arrived at Notre Dame as a spindly 6-4, 211-pound, 17-year-old with barely five years of football experience. "I was just getting used to the game," said Ogundeji, who lost even more developmental time in high school when a knee injury stole most of his senior season. "I guess I was at the bottom." Yet, there was something about Ogundeji that kept Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly invested in his proj- ect player, dating all the way back to their recruiting courtship. Kelly never doubted that Ogundeji would eventu- ally arrive, even if the train might be a bit delayed getting to the station. "We saw that kind of personality that he wanted to be great," Kelly ex- plained. "Everything that he wanted to do was to be successful in the classroom, to be successful on the football field, to be successful in life. So, we saw that passion in him." In an all-out assault on a well- balanced diet, Ogundeji added 30 pounds during his freshman year by eating "anything I could put my hands on," not exactly the preferred method for adding "good" football weight. LONG TIME COMING Patience and persistence are fueling senior defensive end Ade Ogundeji's arrival

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