“Julian is a Robot”
Hearing this, one would think the person in context would be boring and dull, lacking both swag and or personality. Initially, I was taken aback when I heard the phrase directed at Julian Love by his former 7 on 7 coach from the “Midwest Boom”. However, after hearing the meaning behind the phrase and spending an evening with Notre Dame Fighting Irish All American Corner back, I found that he is one of the most Dynamic Robots I have ever met.
I was given the opportunity to attend a Midwest Boom event hosted by Champs Sports, A Part of FootLocker, Inc., with support from Eastbay, in Chicago a few weeks back. A part of the event was a panel that included some social media experts, Chicago Bears Running Back Jordan Howard, and Julian Love. I was lucky enough to chat with him before the event, and conduct a more formal (I wore a shirt with a collar) interview afterwards. To say I was impressed is putting it lightly. Julian was engaging, intelligent, and someone who Notre Dame should be very proud to have as one of the faces of its organization. The “Robot” quote was detailing how he is a kid who seems to be doing EVERYTHING right, both on and off the field, and the only way that this is possible is that he isn’t human. The coaches and former players all laughed at the Robot jab, which showed me that everyone who has been in contact with him knows the type of character he embodies. The goal of this piece is to provide insight into a name that will be called over and over again this fall, focusing on Julian the Player and Julian the Person.
Quick Hitter questions
To help break the ice, I asked Julian a couple of quick questions. (The fantasy fan in me squirmed with joy as we nerdily discussed LOTR)
Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars?
“Lord of the Rings without a doubt, I still remember being taken to the theater as a kid....I...I just idolized Legolas”
If you formed a boy band with 3 of your teammates, who would you pick?
“Troy Pride Jr., Shaun Crawford (who is the best dancer I know, in a funny way), and Jalen Elliott (who is so smooth), all those guys are just crazy and legitimate good dancers”
Who on the team is the hardest to cover in space?
“Honestly, either Michael Young because of his quickness, or Chase Claypool, who is both elusive and strong” #MapleBandit
I saw you’ve tweeted about being a football guy, what does that mean to you?
“Being a football guy is not someone who is naturally the best, I think it is someone who puts the team first and lives through the guys on the team. They focus on using a combination of knowledge and ability to impact the team and make others around them better”
Julian the Player
Julian’s on the field play leaves no doubt that he is one of the top returning cornerbacks in the country. Last year, he led the team in interceptions with 3, returning two for touchdowns. He has an incredible ability to break on the ball and bait quarterbacks into making errant throws. As a former college defensive back, I am always in awe of the amount of 50/50 balls he wins and passes that he breaks up. When asked about his approach to this, he detailed into how much is learned vs. natural ability.
“Ideally I would like it to be 50/50, but realistically it is about 70 percent instinct and 30 percent intentional practice. What people don’t understand is how difficult it is to stay composed, particularly on a deep ball, which is something that I always focus on. Specifically, I put so much emphasis on reaching with the correct hand, at the precise time, while focusing on the end of the route. I think this intentional practice paid off this past year with the amount of pass breakups I had, but is something I still need to make big improvements on.”
You can see that type of emphasis being put on displays in the two plays above vs. Stanford. In both plays, he wins because of his hand placement, which is not luck, but clearly a result of his intentional practice. As a side note, My dad is a current freshman high school defensive backs coach (shoutout Fenwick High school in Oak Park), and he uses this highlight tape to teach hand and eye placement when covering receivers.
This attitude is a great sign for the secondary as a whole this year. Julian clearly put an emphasis on critical details last off season, and it paid huge dividends. This approach to his technique drives other to do the same, and they can see his body of work as a sign of this paying off. He has emerged as the leader and hopes to create a culture of dominance amongst the Defensive Backs.
Notre Dame is incredibly lucky to have a playmaker as the boundary side corner. The ability to match up against the opposing teams #1 receiver with our #1 defender is huge during critical moments of the game. Something to note as a fan is that we potentially may see a dip in his productivity from a pure numbers perspective, but do not let these fool you. If a boundary Corner does their job perfectly, quarterbacks will be forced to look the other way, thus reducing the opportunities to make plays. Teams will game plan around him this year, potentially giving him fewer opportunities, but he will still step up in critical moments as the leader in the secondary.
Julian the Person
I was able to briefly talk with Julian’s dad prior to the event, and really cool to see just how proud he was of his son. He mentioned that he was extremely gratified that he sets a good example for all other players he encounters, including his younger Brother Michael, who recently committed to Bowling Green.
You're my biggest role model PaPa Slim!— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) June 17, 2018
Thank you for everything!
- @JulianLove27 pic.twitter.com/Y92iNU3Ukl
Every fan is easily impressed by his play on the field, but I was more impressed with him off the field. Listening to the Chicago Boom coaches talk about what type of role model he was for the younger kids in the program was remarkable. That organization prides themselves on playing with a ton of swag and being able to back up their talk with their play on the field. When describing Julian, they said he talked the least amount of trash, but would silently torment his opponents. He has all of the ability to be cocky, both on the field and on social media, but chooses to ignore it. This is where the Robot quote came in-The coaches do not know how he stays above all the trash, especially when he is one of the few players who can consistently back it up.
I asked Julian about how he maintains this type of mentality, especially when seeing how so many other top football players act. When detailing how he stays above the noise, Julian noted:
“It is something my parents taught me early on-be humble and never forget where I came from. Also.....I am a corner. Typically, we are not the ones getting all of the hype and scoring all the touchdowns, so it might be easier because sometimes when I do my job, no one notices, which is both cool and sometimes tough. I also I don’t have tons and tons of social media followers so I don’t really have to deal with it as much as Brandon Wimbush for example. Another way I deal with it is to delete social media for periods at a time, it’s not worth getting caught up in what everyone else thinks, and deleting it and getting away from that helps me stay focused”
Ultimately, Julian should end up being an NFL player, but has some other goals to reach before he starts to go down that path. When asked about whether his ultimate goal was the NFL:
“I think so, that is the end goal, but I really want to win in college football first. There are so many guys on our team that are deserving. If we make small improvements and get people invested for the entire season, I know we can win a National Championship”
As my time began to run short (there were tons of kids who wanted autographs and I felt bad holding him up), I asked if there was anything else that people should know about Julian Love before the year. His answer again showed that he cares deeply about his teammates, but also shows that he isn’t ignorant, he knows he is one of the best corners in college, and is proud of it.
“I got the privilege of playing early on and at times, I get portrayed as really THE ONLY guy in secondary who makes plays, and I think others get criticized too harshly amidst my praise. It’s flattering to be talked about like that, but more than anything it takes all 4 of us, and sometimes 5 (in Nickel packages) for me to be successful. What people don’t usually understand is that I am able to be aggressive and make the jumps that I do because of the guys behind me. Without the trust I have in the safeties to cover my back, the linebackers to fill in gaps, and the D-line to get pressure, I couldn’t do what I do. Our whole defense deserves credit....This year it will show more with all the returners, and this year is not about me, but us as a unit, and us as a team”
Listening to Julian talk and watching him interact with him family, fans, and even me (media?), solidified that he is everything that should be embodied by a Notre Dame Football Player. He looks to have another great year and will have NFL options immediately if he so chooses. Look for him to lead the secondary and be a vocal and physical force for the Irish as they kick off the season vs. the Michigan Wolverines come September first.
And if you needed any reminder of his play:
I got killers with me...and it's only the beginning ☘️ pic.twitter.com/RIb0JqSnkA— Julian Love (@julianlove27) January 16, 2018