Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2015 Issue

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

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Page 25 of 92

BY ANDREW OWENS W hen Romeo Okwara ar- rived at Notre Dame as a freshman, he was a very young 16-year- old prospect. Now, as a 20-year-old senior, he is finally realizing his po- tential, and it's paying off for the Irish defense. To put in perspective just how young Okwara was (and is), his brother and Notre Dame commitment Julian will be 18 in December. The high school senior is only two years younger than Ro- meo. Okwara, however, doesn't see age as the reason for his slow development. "I was always thought I was a re- ally mature person," he said. "When I got here I didn't really see a lot of maturity issues. Everything felt really normal for me." Emotional maturity aside, Okwara does admit he is better able to main- tain his weight deep into November, something that was a struggle in past years. "I've kept my weight on a little more as the season progresses, but each and every day I've been work- ing hard since I've been here to get to where I am now," he said. "I've been getting stronger every year. I think I came in at 230 pounds. Now I'm 265ish." More than anything, Okwara's con- fidence is soaring while he plays in his final games in blue and gold. During his first three sea- sons, he recorded 36 stops, 7.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 39 games. In the first 11 contests of his senior season, he had 36 stops, 12.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. In the 28-7 win over Wake For- est Nov. 14, Okwara hurdled over a LATE BLOOMER Romeo Okwara has emerged as one the of nation's top pass rushers in the second half of his senior season "HE'S PLAYING WITH SOME OF THAT RECKLESS ABANDON THAT HE LACKED BEFORE. ... I THINK THAT'S PROBABLY THE BIGGEST KEY FOR HIM RIGHT NOW." HEAD COACH BRIAN KELLY ON OKWARA

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