Adetomiwa Adebawore has been a cornerstone of Northwestern’s defense over the last three years.
Through all the highs and the lows the Wildcats have faced in that time, Adebawore has been a consistent presence along their defensive line. He has tallied 11.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss over his last three years, and his versatility has been crucial for Northwestern’s defensive unit.
With his ability to play as far outside as a stand-up edge rusher to as far inside as a 3-technique defensive tackle, Adebawore is viewed as one of the most scheme-versatile defensive linemen in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. With an appearance at the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl right around the corner, he’ll have the chance to prove that value even more so to NFL scouts after facing some of the best the Big Ten had to offer.
I had the chance to speak with Adebawore about his collegiate career, going up against Peter Skoronski and Rashawn Slater in practice, how his pass-rushing plan approach varies inside or outside, and more.
JI: You’re going to be heading down to the Senior Bowl in a few weeks. What are you looking forward to the most about that?
AA: I think for me, the biggest thing is just going out competing against the best. These are going to be at least four-year guys, four- to six-year guys competing. Obviously, everyone’s there for a reason, so everyone’s been successful in their own right. Just competing against those guys, that, for me, is going to be really fun.
JI: You had the privilege to practice against Peter Skoronski, and I’m sure he’d say practicing against you on a regular basis was a privilege for him too. How would you say that helped you and your development?
AA: Yeah, definitely. With Peter Skoronski, and you got guys like Rashawn Slater, who came in before him. To go against them, that level of an offensive lineman, I’ve already seen the best of the best every day just coming here. Nothing would necessarily surprise me, I would say. I’ve competed against great talent, so when I face the kind of talent I’m going to be facing [at the Senior Bowl], it’s not going to be like, “oh, shoot. I’ve never seen this.”
JI: How much did you go up against Slater before he left for the NFL?
AA: I’d say [I practiced against Slater] my freshman year in , and then before Covid in 2020.
JI: You had plenty of accomplishments in your time at Northwestern. What would you say your favorite experience was from your time there?
AA: My favorite experience...man, there’s a lot. In  we had a pretty good year, going to the Big Ten Championship, [we] won the bowl game against Auburn. I mean, that was a really good experience, especially with those guys I was playing with at the time, like Earnest Brown, Paddy Fisher, a lot of great players, Greg Newsome. I would say that, just because that year gave me that confidence. Like, “okay, I have opportunity to play in the NFL.” ecause, I saw the [2021 NFL] draft, seeing those guys got picked up. I’m like, “oh, okay!” I saw that I definitely have a chance. That’s when my confidence really grew in terms of where I’m at right now. That’s why I say my second year was my best experience.
JI: Outside of your teammates, who’s the toughest player you’ve had to go up against?
AA: There’s been a lot of good o-linemen. I guess in terms of guys I was really going against — obviously, there’s been [other] good o-linemen, but I wasn’t going against them. Damn, that’s a hard question. I would say the best lineman, and I almost want to talk guard, was probably Ohio State’s right guard [Matthew Jones]. I thought he was pretty solid in pass pro.
Then, I would say...I don’t know, because I really started to play a lot more [3-technique] towards the end of the year. I wasn’t really going up against some of those tackles are pretty good, like Paris Johnson, Dawand Jones, Alex [Palczewski], can’t say his last name from Illinois. I’m honestly having a hard time answering, because there’s been a lot of good players. I’m having a hard time to single out one guy. Last year, Michigan had some pretty strong offensive linemen.
JI: You mentioned Northwestern moved you around a bit. Walk me through how your approach changes as an interior lineman as opposed to an edge rusher.
AA: When you’re playing d-end, you got to take a few more steps to make contact with that tackle. It kind of takes a little bit longer to get to that quarterback. Playing inside, everything happens quicker, so you got to beat your man right now to get to quarterback. This is happening so much quicker, because obviously, there’s less space, so operating in a shorter area. I think that’s the biggest difference. You’re just farther away when you’re playing d-end.
JI: You use your hands very well on tape, is there a specific move that you’d consider your favorite to use?
AA: I’d say I have my general moves I like to use. I’m not going to say it differs per opponent but obviously, with those moves, I understand who I’m going against. If I’m going up against a guy who has longer arms, maybe I’m going to have to adjust my moves. Or a guy who’s maybe really good with the speed, but not as powerful. Okay, maybe instead of speed, I can think about more power moves against this guy, or a guy who’s strong, but not as much [quick on his] feet, I got to think about the type of moves to get around. It kind of differs by person, but you have your general approach.
JI: How do you spend your free time outside of football?
AA: Outside of football, I like to relax, watch TV, whatever’s on. Take walks, if I can, just talk with [my] family and friends. I’m generally just kind of relaxed. I just put so much work in football and training and everything like that, and by the time it’s my free time, I’m normally pretty tired.
JI: Are there any specific shows you’ve been binging lately?
AA: Yeah, I just turn on whatever. Obviously, it’s the [NFL] playoff season, so that’s been good. I haven’t really had time to binge something, because I do like to binge: once I start something, I have to finish, and I know that about myself, so I don’t want to start something unless I know I have some time. But I like anime whenever I get the chance.
JI: What’s your favorite anime?
AA: Probably Naruto. As a kid, it was all I was watching on TV.
JI: I just finished rewatching One Punch Man if you’re looking for one to try out.
AA: I saw Season 1 of that, and it’s literally a man who’s killing dudes with one punch. That’s what’s funny about it.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
AA: You’re going to get a guy who’s going to maximize his abilities every single day. You’ll get a guy who cares. You’ll get a guy who’s going to get better, going to work to get better, each and every single day.