NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu Declares For Draft

Potentially the best offensive lineman in college football, Ikem Ekwonu had ACC pass rushers and defensive linemen breathing a sigh of relief as he announced his intentions to forgo his senior year and take the next step towards an NFL career (Twitter). Ikem is short for Ikemefuna, an Igbo name that translates loosely to “my strength is not in vain,” and never has that been more true than with Ekwonu.

Ekwonu arrived in Raleigh as a 3-star recruit out of Providence Day School in Charlotte. Ekwonu’s strength was not his only asset, as he chose the Wolfpack over offers from FCS Ivy’s Harvard and Yale. It took NC State 5 games before they realized Ekwonu needed to be on the field for every play. He started at left tackle for the final 7 games of the season and led the team in pancake blocks with 37. Ekwonu’s dominance was immediately noticed as he was named to the FWAA Freshman All-America team. He was moved to left guard to start the 2020 season before being kicked back out to tackle and once again leading the team with 50 pancakes and 22 knockdowns. In his final year of collegiate play, Ikem led the team once more with 63 pancakes and 18 knockdowns en route to a unanimous First-Team All-American selection.

Ekwonu is set for a large payday as he readies for the 2022 NFL Draft, but, according to an interview with USA Today Network, money was not a motivation to leave. He was quoted saying, “The reason I would leave would be because I’ve dominated at this level for as long as I have and I feel like it’s time for that next step.” Humble to the core; not wrong, though.

Ekwonu’s size will have teams viewing him as an interior line prospect, but Ekwonu has shown continuous success as a blindside tackle, as well. Most mock drafts have him as a Top 10 pick, while Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, has him listed as the 5th-best overall player and the 2nd-best offensive tackle, behind only Alabama’s Evan Neal. Ekwonu will aim to be only the third Wolfpack offensive linemen in history to be picked in the first round (Jim Ritcher, Bills 1980 & Garrett Bradbury, Vikings 2019). Needless to say, it won’t take long into that Thursday night in April, before we see “Ickey” shuffle across that stage to shake Goodell’s hand.

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