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‘End of the day, it’s all love’: Justin Ademilola shines alongside twin

Since arriving on campus in 2018 Justin Ademilola has done nothing more than put in the work and carve out a spot on the Notre Dame football team. Arriving as a 3-star recruit from Jackson, New Jersey, he has found a consistent role on the team, using his versatility to appear in every game for the Irish over the last three years.

“Since I got here, every year my football IQ has been increasing, and that’s helped with my play. I can play numerous different positions and I know the nuances of a lot of positions up front – even the linebackers. I think that works as an advantage for me,” Ademilola said.

During his career, he played at both ends of the Notre Dame defensive line. Ademilola racked up 102 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He has steadily improved his numbers every year, putting together a stellar 35 tackles and one forced fumble in 2021. He was also second on the team with five sacks last season, trailing only Isaiah Foskey.  Together, they both formed part of a formidable pass-rushing trio along with Justin’s twin brother Jayson Ademilola.

Notre Dame recruited the Ademilolas in tandem, and on June 26, 2016, the twins committed to the university together. Six years later, Justin reflected on that process.

“I just wanted to get here and see the Notre Dame experience,” he said. “I got here and my twin brother and I camped here. We earned an offer, and not even 48 hours later we decided to commit to Notre Dame because of the coaching staff, everything it had to offer, the academics — you really couldn’t go wrong,” he said.

He was especially appreciative of the opportunity to continue playing with his brother after high school.

“It’s an awesome experience. Not too many people get to play at the next level with their brother or their twin, so it’s an experience that I’m forever grateful and thankful for — that Notre Dame gave us the opportunity to play together here,” Ademilola said.

Ademilola added to that sentiment, mentioning head coach Marcus Freeman’s coaching philosophy and talking about the drive to compete and get better alongside his brother.

“[Jayson and I] are always competing to get better but it’s also all love. Coach Freeman’s got a saying called ‘competitive spirit,’ so you always have to compete and bring the best out of your brothers, but at the end of the day it’s all love,” he said.

 Throughout his time at Notre Dame, Ademilola has played under three different defensive coordinators including current head football coach Marcus Freeman. That experience has also given him a great perspective of what sets Freeman apart.

“Coach Freeman’s a hands-on guy. He’s a coach that always leaves his door open. He has relationships with every one of his players, and he’s just there for us. That means a lot for our players. Anything we need from Coach Freeman, he’ll try his best to get it done for the team. We love playing for a coach like that,” Ademilola said.

It’s that love for Freeman that generated a different level of buzz around the program this season. Ademilola felt that buzz in the locker room too. Especially on the night of a big game, like when Clemson came to Notre Dame Stadium earlier this season.

“Waking up that morning when we had walkthroughs, everyone was saying upfront, ‘It’s in the air tonight, guys.’ We knew what we were getting into, and we knew that we were coming out victorious. It’s a credit to our preparation and our execution,” Ademilola said.

Ademilola said he is still unsure of what his future holds. However, he looks forward to the end of the season and giving his best for the team. Despite the uncertainty, he expressed deep gratitude for his experiences and his teammates.

“Every year, being a part of a different team — new leadership and just the guys. I’m gonna be grateful and thankful for this experience with the guys and my teammates. I’m blessed to be able to leave here upper-handed,” Ademilola said.

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