Former Notre Dame teammates Utupo, Zaire coaching together at California high school

Tyler James
ND Insider
Notre Dame defensive lineman Justin Utupo (53) rushes quarterback Malik Zaire (8) during the 2014 Blue-Gold Game. The two have reunited in 2021 as high school football coaches in Lakewood, Calif.

Justin Utupo and Malik Zaire shared a sideline at Notre Dame for two seasons. 

Now the two former Irish football players will reunite on the sideline as coaches at Lakewood (Calif.) High. 

Utupo, a defensive lineman at Notre Dame from 2010-14, made the reunion happen when he was named the head coach at Lakewood, where he was an all-state defensive tackle during his playing days. Utupo couldn't pass up the opportunity to return to his alma mater. 

“Lakewood High School and the Lakewood community played a huge role in my life and the path that I’ve chosen,” Utupo told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “Want to be able to give back and do the same for generations to come.”

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Utupo, 29, was recently named the head coach at Northwood High in Irvine, Calif., but he stepped down when presented the opportunity to coach at Lakewood. Lakewood’s previous coach, Scott Meyer, left the program last week. 

Utupo, who recorded 30 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one sack and one interception in 48 games for the Irish, spent the last six seasons coaching high school and college football. He started as the co-defensive coordinator at Lakewood in 2015. After spending 2016 as the defensive coordinator at Millikan High School in Long Beach, Calif., Utupo took over the head coaching job and led Millikan to a 17-6 record in 2017 and 2018.  

Utupo spent one season as a linebackers coach at Azusa Pacific, a Division II program in Azusa, Calif., before returning to the high school level in 2020 as an assistant coach at Orange Lutheran. 

Zaire, who played quarterback at Notre Dame from 2013-16 and finished his career at Florida, embarked on a career in sports media and broadcasting in recent years. Along with other jobs, Zaire did work as an in-game and studio analyst for CBS Sports Network the last two seasons. 

Zaire, 26, will serve as Lakewood’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in his first coaching role. He finished his Notre Dame career 58-of-98 passing for 816 yards and six touchdowns with 72 carries for 342 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 17 games.