Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2022*

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

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Page 50 of 55 NOV. 26, 2022 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE F ormer Irish defensive end Julian Okwara has lived an up-and-down existence during his first three NFL sea- sons with the Detroit Lions. But the versatile linebacker and rush end played arguably the best game of his NFL career Nov. 13 — or at least his most impactful one — when he recorded 2 sacks in the Lions' 31-30 win over the Chicago Bears. Rarely does a pass rusher get two chances at a sack on one play, especially when the first miss leaves them on the ground. But through all-out effort, Ok- wara made good on his second shot and recorded the biggest play of his career. Okwara chased down mobile Bears quarterback Justin Fields from behind, wrapped him up and dropped him. His fourth-down sack with 59 seconds left in the game iced the victory for the Li- ons, only their third win of the season, but a second straight after five consecu- tive losses. "I tried not to throw [Fields] to the ground because he's elusive and he'll get out of those tackles easily," Okwara told reporters afterward. "He's very hard to tackle." The sack was Okwara's second of the game, and his first 2 this season. "We just had to bring him down and stay on him, really," Okwara added, "just bottle him up." Through Nov. 13, Okwara had played in eight games (two starts) and recorded 16 tackles. This particular matchup between the Bears and the Lions featured a heavy Notre Dame presence. In addition to Okwara, the Bears fielded former Irish wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown (2015-17) and Chase Claypool (2016-19), tight end Cole Kmet (2017-19) and cen- ter Sam Mustipher (2014-18), all of who made contributions. Detroit featured tight end Brock Wright (2017-20), who caught a 2-yard touchdown pass in the game, and vet- eran starting long snapper (2012-15) Scott Daly. BUMPY RIDE Okwara missed most of the NFL Draft process two years ago because of a bro- ken leg he suffered at Notre Dame late in the 2019 season. He then missed 10 games during his NFL rookie season in 2020 with a separate leg injury. The Charlotte, N.C., native enjoyed a terrific second year with Detroit in 2021 with 27 tackles, 5 sacks, 9 quarterback hits and 1 interception. Another leg in- jury during this offseason kept Okwara on the sideline to start 2022. Through seven games this season, Okwara had 16 tackles (9 solo), includ- ing his all-important 2 sacks against the Bears. Undersized, overwhelmed and only 18 years old, Okwara arrived to Notre Dame in 2016 as a skinny, 6-foot-4, 215-pound freshman. He left Notre Dame at 239 pounds, as a coveted pass rusher and a third-round draft pick (67th overall). In 35 games with the Irish, Okwara recorded 79 tackles with 15.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. ❏ Okwara recorded 2 sacks in the Detroit Lions' 31-30 win over the Chicago Bears, including one on fourth down to seal the victory. PHOTO COURTESY DETROIT LIONS Lions Linebacker Julian Okwara Records Game-Winning Sack IRISH IN THE NFL HIGHLIGHTS: WEEK 10 • Cole Kmet (2017-19), TE, Chicago Bears: Caught 4 passes for 74 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Bears' 31-30 loss to the Lions … Has started 10 games for 3-7 Chicago and compiled 23 catches for 274 yards and 5 touchdowns. • Zack Martin (2009-13), OG, Dallas Cowboys: Started at right guard and allowed 0 pressures in the Cowboys' 31-28 overtime loss to the Packers … Has started nine games for 6-3 Dallas, allowing 0 sacks, 10 pressures and earning a PFF grade of 70.7. • Drue Tranquill (2014-18), LB, Los Angeles Chargers: Started and made 15 tackles in the Chargers' 22-16 loss to the 49ers … Has 92 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 pass broken up and 1 interception in nine games (eight starts) for 5-4 Los Angeles. • Kyren Williams (2019-21), RB, Los Angeles Rams: Had 1 carry for 9 yards and 3 catches for 30 yards in the Rams' 27-17 loss to the Cardinals … Has played in two games for 3-6 Los Angeles and was activated from injured reserve Nov. 12 after missing seven games with a high ankle sprain.

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