SOUTH BEND – Khalid Kareem is intimately familiar with the Michigan Wolverines' roster.
The Notre Dame defensive end, a Detroit native, rattled off a list of Maize and Blue players that he played with or against in high school.
“I know Michael Onwenu, I know Tru Wilson, he's a running back, we went to the same high school, I know Khaleke Hudson, Brad Hawkins, Ambry Thomas, Tarik Black,” Kareem said before stopping and laughing. “I know a lot of guys.”
The senior defensive end is one of five players on Notre Dame's roster from Michigan, all of whom will be returning to their home state when they travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines on Saturday.
The Irish make a point of treating each game as if it is against a faceless opponent, doing everything they can to prepare the same way for a matchup against Bowling Green as they do for a clash with the 19th-ranked Wolverines.
Kareem tried to toe that line Tuesday but ended up admitting he's excited to be facing Michigan, a team that was among his final three school choices before he committed to Notre Dame.
“It's just another team and we're trying to get to the national championship,” he said. “But I feel like it's a little personal for me. I'm 30 minutes away from campus in Ann Arbor, so I know a lot of guys on the team, a lot of friends go to Michigan, so it'll be good to go in there and try to get a W.”
Kareem's fellow defensive lineman Ade Ogundeji is a native of West Bloomfield, Michigan, and was a Wolverines fan when he was in high school. His uncle is a Michigan alumni, and he attended a Wolverines game in the Big House shortly after the stadium was renovated in 2010.
“It was pretty exciting to go in there,” Ogundeji said. “It was pretty nice to see how big it is and how loud it is in there.”
The rivalry between the Irish and the Wolverines has been stoked by stories such as Ogundeji's and Kareem's over the years. The two geographically related, academically minded football powers have competed for recruits for decades and that adds a personal touch to the matchup that has been played in 1887.
“A lot of (Michigan's) guys are recruited to Notre Dame as well,” coach Brian Kelly said. “You know, you're only a couple hours away. It's one of our only two bus trips, maybe three, with Purdue that we take in our time here.
“So the proximity is certainly one that we're quite aware of as well. So clearly the guys know Michigan. They know the history and tradition of it.”
The Wolverines made a late run at recruiting Kareem, who went to a game in Ann Arbor on a visit, but he ultimately felt most at home in South Bend.
Like many high school students, he was looking for a degree of independence after living in Michigan his entire life.
“It just came down to me wanting to do something different,” he said. “Being far enough away where I can be my own person.”
When he committed, the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry was on hiatus and it was unclear whether he would get a chance to face the Wolverines. He said he's always wanted to play in the biggest stadium in the country.
“The most exciting thing about playing away games, especially like (Michigan), is to leave a crowd silent,” said Kareem, who will have in excess of 15 family and friends at the game Saturday. “To just see our fans, let their fans leave because we're winning.”
Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
When: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Notre Dame (5-1), Michigan (5-2)
Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM