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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Pete Mokwuah adds experience value to young Irish defensive line

Senior defensive lineman Pete Mokwuah began playing football when his family moved to Staten Island, New York.

“I moved, and when I moved, there was a football field about 10 minutes from my house and I said, ‘Mommy, I want to play football,’” Mokwuah said. “Yeah, that was exactly what I said. I was 8, and I said ‘Mommy, I want to play football.’ She didn’t want me to play because she thought I would get hurt or something, but I wasn’t that good at basketball, so it was time to start playing.”

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer
Irish senior defensive lineman Pete Mokwuah chases after the quarterback during the Blue and Gold game on April 22.

Originally, Mokwuah was recruited by Rutgers University, but when Notre Dame came knocking, he couldn’t pass the opportunity up.

“I was actually recruited to Rutgers University for eight or nine months,” Mokwuah said. “ND came knocking at my door around late December, but that was my best offer and that was the best university to choose, so I committed on the spot. I kind of chose Notre Dame mostly on my gut instinct, knowing something about that program — not a lot, but just knowing that it was an elite program. I just knew that I had to make that move, and it was getting close to signing day, so I didn’t even want it to linger on.”

The humble defensive lineman used to play running back before switching to the defensive line.

“I told [Irish junior running back] Josh Adams that, yeah, he can laugh it up all he wants, but if he had seen me in sixth grade, I don’t think he would’ve been able to catch me,” Mokwuah joked.

According to Mokwuah, the feeling of running through the tunnel never changes.

“It always feels like the first time. You approach the stadium, you see the fans with all of their attention looking towards that center part of the stadium, and you just start to get the chills,” Mokwuah said. “You realize that in that tunnel, you are with your teammates, you are in the moment and you are about to go out with your brothers and battle to the very end.”

On and off the field, Mokwuah said he knows when it is game time.

“On the field, I am tough, hard to move, hot-headed at times, slightly emotional and edgy,” Mokwuah said. ”Off the field, I am the jokester. Everybody comes to me for the jokes.”

After coming off a 4-8 season in 2016, Mokwuah said there is definitely a different feel to the team.

“The feeling, how do I describe it? I mean, I’m in the same building that I was in the 4-8 season, but there’s a different feel to it,” he said. “You can just tell. The procedures that this team takes in order to be champions is evident of the attempt to execute that plan. I think that’s what was different from last year — we didn’t really have an identity. We lost like seven games by one possession. What we did this year, the little things that we did and some of the traits that we’ve implemented and even made permanent within us is the reason that we don’t have those type of games or we don’t feel that we don’t have an identity. We know who we are and we have to come out every week and execute the same exact way, and that’s different from this year and last year.”

Mokwuah has a lot of respect for his fellow teammates and for his coaches, Adams, senior punter Tyler Newsome and junior wide receiver C.J. Sanders.

“I respect their demeanor and their work ethic,” Mokwuah said. “[Senior offensive analyst Jeff] Quinn brings energy to practice every day, and I really respect that. His consistency is crazy. He is always wanting you to get better, and he wants you to grow your game. I respect him.”

One of his favorite quotes is, “Count on me.”

“I like it because, to everybody, it can mean something different, but when everybody means the same thing ... is when you know you have something special,” Mokwuah said. “That quote can go either way, but it has a lot of significance.”

Looking at the rest of the season, Mokwuah plans to stay focused.

“For the team, I would like to contribute to this awesome defense, get some tackles, get some TFLs for all my D-line guys and just ball out for my brothers really. That’s all I really want to do,” he said.

In life, Mokwuah said he owes a lot to his mother and considers her to be his greatest role model.

“She raised me to have enough work ethic to put me in the position that I am in now, and I can’t thank her enough for that,” Mokwuah said. ”Maybe I was being stubborn back in the days and hard-headed, and I didn’t know all the good that she was doing for me and the lessons that she was trying to teach me. Every day, I might just think of something that she might have taught me years ago, and I just realize, ‘Man, it’s crazy.’”

The senior is currently taking one step at a time and waiting to see what opportunities may end up presenting themselves.