NFL Draft: Notre Dame DE Ade Ogundeji grabbed by Falcons in fifth round, eighth Irish player picked

Michael Wanbaugh
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji was taken by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft Saturday in Cleveland. He was the 182nd overall pick.

Ogundeji is the eighth Notre Dame player selected in this draft behind OT Liam Eichenberg (No. 42) to Miami, guard Aaron Banks (No. 48) to San Francisco, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (No. 52) to Cleveland, TE Tommy Tremble (No. 83) to Carolina, OT Robert Hainsey (No. 95) to Tampa Bay, QB Ian Book (No. 133) to New Orleans and DE Daelin Hayes (No. 171) to Baltimore.

“It’s been a very long journey,” Ogundeji said before his final home game last December. “I’ve been very blessed to be in this position with so many guys that came through here. Definitely within my first year it was a struggle, but we continued to get better as a team and myself continued to get better."

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Ogundeji didn’t play as a freshman in 2016, when the Irish limped to a 4-8 record, their worst since 2007. He saw action in five games his sophomore year, but never cracked the starting lineup.

He stuck with it.

Defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji (91) led Notre Dame with 7 sacks in 2020

As a junior he played in all 13 games, recording 22 tackles and forcing a fumble against Florida State. As a senior he finally got his first career start against Stanford and finished the 2019 season with 4.5 sacks.

Despite just one career start, Ogundeji was named a team captain for the 2020 season, and lived up to the role, starting all 12 games and leading the team with seven sacks for 28 yards lost.

“That’s what it comes down to in life — growth throughout the whole time,” he said. “It was a great time for me. I’m happy to be around great people, people I’m going to be with for life.”

Notre Dame’s Adetokunbo Ogundeji (91) returns a fumble against Virginia Sept. 28, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

What they were saying

“Plodding defensive end with traits to garner late-round attention from 4-3 and 3-4 teams. Ogundeji's football frame and play have both improved over the years. He's long and possesses good upper-body strength, which have frequently been physical traits that foreshadow an ability to improve with more coaching on the next level. He needs technique work and a more diversified rush approach. He must find a way to create pocket turmoil since his lack of fluidity and agility are likely to prevent him from making many plays in the run game. A backup role could be his absolute ceiling.” — analyst Lance Zierlein

Golden Notre Dame moment

Ogundeji’s first career sack came in his sophomore season on a pretty big stage as he took down Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence (this year’s No. 1 overall pick) in the 2018 College Football Playoff Cotton Bowl. The sack led to a missed field goal by the Tigers. Ogundeji’s best overall statistical performance, came last year, however, when he recorded three tackles and two sacks in a 31-17 win at North Carolina.

5 things to know about Ogundeji

1 — A three-star recruit out of West Bloomfield, Mich., Ogundeji was just 17 when he enrolled at Notre Dame in 2016.

2 — Full name is pronounced ah-DAY-tok-uhn-bo oh-gun-day-gee. He also goes by “Ade.”

3 — Ogundeji choose Notre Dame over Western Michigan. The University of Michigan, just 40 minutes from his hometown, didn’t show interest in him. It was against Michigan in 2018 that Ogundeji recorded his first college statistic — a pass breakup.

4 — Because of a torn MCL, Ogundeji played in just four games his senior season at Walled Lake Central High School.

5 — Majored in design at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame defensive Adetokunbo Ogundeji's first career sack came against Trevor Lawrence and Clemson in the 2018 Cotton Bowl.