Notre Dame LB James Onwualu plays bigger than his size


Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

James Onwualu is more than his frame.

At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Notre Dame's junior linebacker may look small for his position, unable to effectively shed blocks and cover physical tight ends.

But his tenacity, Onwualu told's Jack Nolan recently, makes up for his lack of size.

“I think that’s what coach (Brian) Kelly saw, and one of the reasons he brought me over from offense," Onwualu said. "I like to get into it, no matter what the size of the opponent is.”

After committing to Notre Dame as a wide receiver, Onwualu shifted to safety before finally finding a home at linebacker. He made eight starts last season, finishing with 24 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Earlier this week, Onwualu spoke with Nolan as part of Notre Dame Day, a global celebration to promote the university's mission. And while he has certainly made strides since embracing the defensive side of the ball, the junior credited his fellow linebackers in furthering that progress.

“It’s been a smooth transition," he said. "It’s a little different on defense, but I’ve got a bunch of guys around me that have really helped me out. Being in there with Joe (Schmidt) and Jaylon (Smith), you couldn’t be in there and learning from anybody better.”


Watch Onwualu talk about his transition to defense as well as his internship with Bank of America this summer in the full interview below.

Notre Dame's James Onwualu during practice on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, inside the Loftus Sports Center at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN