DE recruit Julian Okwara familiar with Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Romeo Okwara couldn’t keep a secret.

His younger brother was set to receive a scholarship offer from Notre Dame, but had yet to speak with assistant coach Mike Elston. That brother, Julian, was still in class on Friday, Feb. 20. The junior at Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell planned to speak with Elston after school.

"He knew before I did,” Julian Okwara said of his older brother, a junior defensive end at Notre Dame. “I had a sense that it was coming because he was acting a little weird. Then he told me."

Julian Okwara would later speak with Elston and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who formally extended him an offer.

"It was pretty exciting,” Julian Okwara said. “I've been around Notre Dame since eighth grade. Coach Elston's always said he's been keeping an eye on me. It's cool that they followed up on that.”

Few college coaches are as familiar with the Okwara family as Elston. He recruited Romeo Okwara as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end in the 2012 cycle. Trips to Charlotte for in-person evaluations and in-home visits were all part of the process. At the time, Julian Okwara was an eighth-grader hoping to follow the path of his brother.

“I knew coach Elston well,” Julian Okwara said. “He's come down here for school visits and to our house to eat dinner with my family. Every time he'd talk to me he was always messing around. When I went up there, I'd talk to him a lot at the games and when we'd drop my brother off at school."

So far, the younger Okwara has followed in the footsteps of his older brother. Following a junior season in which he estimates he made 90 tackles and 10 sacks, Julian Okwara has now received more than a dozen offers. His Irish offer capped off a week in which he also received offers from Michigan and Georgia.

"It's pretty exciting,” Julian Okwara said. “I started off with the ACC. Then it was Cal in the Pac-12. And the SEC schools started coming around. Now it's big schools like Michigan and Georgia.”

A weekend visit to Florida State was next on the agenda for Julian Okwara. He hopes to return to Notre Dame sometime in March.

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Julian Okwara has yet to grow into a defensive end like his brother. He played a combination of end and linebacker last season, but hopes to develop into an edge rusher in college. Rivals rates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 16 outside linebacker in the 2016 class.

"I want to play defensive end,” Julian Okwara said. “I have a pretty quick first step. I use my hands well. I can get around tackles really fast. That's what I do in high school and I'm pretty sure if I keep up the hard work I can do that in college too."

He has studied Notre Dame’s defense closely and tried to model his game after some Irish defenders. He can’t give his older brother all the credit.

“Jaylon Smith gets to the quarterback fast. That's something I try to emulate,” Julian Okwara said.

Advice on how to get bigger, though, is something Julian Okwara has solicited from his brother.

"He tells me to eat a lot,” Julian Okwara said.

Watch junior highlights of Okwara here.

tjames@ndinsider.com  | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Julian Okwara, a 2016 defensive end prospect, received an offer from Notre Dame in February. His older brother, Romeo, plays defensive end for the Irish. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)