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Adetokunbo Ogundeji credits teammates, Notre Dame with his maturation throughout football career

| Friday, November 22, 2019

Adetokunbo Ogundeji, a senior defensive lineman hailing from West Bloomfield, Michigan, finds himself at the tail end of his Notre Dame football career. But for Ogundeji, the fruits of the journey are found on more than just the stat sheet. 

The senior, who tallied 22 total tackles, appeared in all 13 games and forcing a key fumble against Florida State during the squad’s last home game of the season last year, speaks quite highly of Notre Dame, especially of the people who’ve helped him along the way. He may not have had a plethora of offers from big time programs in high school, but Ogundeji said he was entranced by Notre Dame from the beginning. 

“I think it’s just when it comes down to the tradition — football and academics — it has it all here,” Ogundeji said. “I feel like some schools might have football, or academics, with no tradition, but this school has it all. And when you come here, you know you’re coming to a special place. … You’re coming to a school that has so much tradition, so much pride for itself. That’s what it comes down to — I feel like no other school could have all three of those.” 

To receive an offer from Notre Dame at all is an impressive feat, especially considering Ogundeji started playing football later than the average Division I competitor. He admitted that, at first, he certainly wasn’t the best on the field. 

“I started playing football in eight grade … I played offensive line, so I pretty much was trash,” Ogundeji said. “And then in high school, I decided to try it one more time, and I had a really good group of guys around me; so that’s when I started to actually love playing football. From there on, it just took off from there. I got an offer here at Notre Dame going into my senior year, and I just couldn’t pick any other school.”

Ogundeji was quick to admit he had to make tough adjustments along the way, most notably adjusting to the busy student-athlete life his freshman year.

Zachary Yim | The Observer
Irish senior defensive lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji tackles an opponent during Notre Dame’s 38-7 win over Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium on Nov. 9.

“I had to get used to playing at a level like this,” Ogundeji said. “But [also] understanding how to organize yourself with school, with football, with all that, social life. It definitely was a struggle for me in the first year. But then, as the years went by, I learned how to balance my life, really understand how to balance football and school.”

Along the way, Ogundeji said he made many friends, but he did mention a few names who specifically helped him the most. 

“I would say [senior safety] Chris [Schilling] and [senior offensive lineman] Arion [Shinaver]— they were my roommates, I’ve known them since freshman year,” Ogundeji said. “[Senior defensive lineman] Khalid [Kareem], I’ve known him since before high school. [Senior defensive lineman] Daelin [Hayes] I’ve also known since before high school, so those guys have been my buddies, for life. [Senior defensive linemen] Julian [Okwara], he’s always been there for me and Jamir [Jones], pretty much all of the defensive ends. … Pretty much everybody, I would go down the whole list, but those guys have definitely been great.”

When asked for his favorite memories, Ogundeji pointed to the USC victory last year, which capped the squad’s undefeated regular season. He said the whole process at Notre Dame has been something he’ll look back on as a great memory. 

“I would definitely say during the games when we do the alma mater and that stuff, you don’t really see that with a lot of other teams,” Ogundeji said. “So I think that’s definitely a moment I will always remember. I’ll always remember last year we played USC, that was a big accomplishment not just for our football team but for the whole school, so that was a big thing. You know, I feel like this whole process has kind of been just one great big moment for me.”

In the end, Ogundeji said Notre Dame has changed him for the better, and he views the process as one of great maturation. 

“I think Notre Dame has just definitely turned me into a better man. I would say it taught me just to be more detailed, just learning a lot of new things,” he said. “I feel like one thing I’ve learned throughout this whole process is that it’s not going to be easy, but you learn a lot of things — from football, school — I can tell you a million things I’ve learned from Notre Dame that I would have never learned outside of here. And just being with people, just being more of an open person. When I first came here, I feel like I was a little shy, you know, you’re coming to a school you don’t know, and I’m out of state, so it’s kind of different, but just all the people here were great.”

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