Bengals' DE Khalid Kareem Quotes 4.25.20
COURTESY OF CINCINNATI BENGALS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
When did you have an idea that the Bengals might have interest in drafting you? Have you known for a while, or was this a bit of a surprise? "It's a little bit of a surprise. I talked to them very briefly early in the process, but not really much coming around draft time."
Talk about the good news of being drafted. You're from Detroit, which has been hit hard by the virus, so a little bit of good news helps on a day like today… "Yeah, definitely. Being a Midwest guy, it's definitely good to stay home. Cincinnati is only like four or five hours away, so it's close enough for my family to come see me play. I'm just excited for the opportunity."
There's kind of a checklist of things Bengals coaching staff is looking for from the players it drafts — smart, leader, team captain. It looks like you're a coach's son as well. Would you say you check all those boxes? "Yeah, I would say so. I feel like the leader, definitely. Being a captain at Notre Dame, that's something I definitely take a lot of pride in. That's player-voted, so that just shows in the eyes of my peers that I was a guy they looked up to. That's definitely something I took close to heart – leading a bunch of guys trying to be the best for them – and for myself at the end of the day."
In the pre-draft process, what are some things you worked on technically to prepare yourself for the next level? "I feel like the biggest thing technically I worked on was just more the X's and O's. I did a lot of board work. I tore my labrum against Duke, and then had surgery early in the draft process in January, so I wasn't really able to do a lot of things physically. I took that time to grow in the mental aspect." What is the biggest asset to your game? "I would just say the effort. I never really give up on a play. Even if I fall down, I'm still getting up and trying to make a play. There's been numerous times in my career when I've made plays like that. Also, I feel like my preparation and the time I put into football. Being a coach's kid, I was always around football a lot. Once I was on my own in college, I really took that time to take it upon myself to really develop my game. I spent a lot of hours in the facility either late at night, after practice or before practice. I feel like preparation is one of the biggest things for me."
What's one thing your dad gave you, from a coach's perspective, that's served you well through your career? "I would say taking constructive criticism. If I can take criticism from him, I can take it from anyone. I feel like that's the biggest thing that helped me."
How far are you removed from labrum surgery? What's the timeline on being back? "I'm at about 75 percent right now — 13 weeks out. I'll be 100% ready to go right before training camp."
Is that a Fat Head poster of yourself behind you? "(Laughs) It is. My dad had it made for me."
Not many people have a big picture of themselves in their bedroom… "It's something I kind of got used to. My dad, he made one from high school and I got one for college. I got to see how I changed, as far as stature. It ties it all in, with how far I've come in my career."
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was raving about your wingspan. How has that helped you in your play? "It's something I've been trying to put to my game. My stabs, my long arms — they help me a lot. A lot of guys aren't used to seeing that length, when it comes to a pass rusher. When I get my opportunity, I try to leave my mark."
What did you do to pass the time before getting picked, and how did you react to getting the news? "I was waiting yesterday; I thought possibly there was a chance I'd get picked. I was sitting around with my family, and had a few teammates over to enjoy the atmosphere. Today, I was thinking, 'Today's the day.' When I got the call, I was refilling my dog's food and water. I didn't expect it at the time, but I was definitely excited when I got the call." Are there any players in the NFL you model your game after? "One guy who I really like is Chandler Jones. He has great length, puts in the effort, and he's a technician. That's a guy who I really look up to, as far as pass-rushing goes."
What has Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly meant for your life? "He gave me the opportunity to go to Notre Dame, and it changed my life. I definitely appreciate it. I can't thank him enough."
You were a business major at Notre Dame? Have you graduated? "Yes sir. I graduated in December of 2019."