Ikem Ekwonu meets Jacksonville Jaguars, says being NFL’s No. 1 draft pick ‘wouldn’t shock me’
INDIANAPOLIS — North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu has done his homework, and he thinks he can be — and is ready to handle — the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft next month.
Ekwonu is currently being projected by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 1 overall pick. He is ranked No. 2 by Kiper and No. 4 by ESPN’s Todd McShay (behind Alabama tackle Evan Neal).
“I think I would be the third player in [N.C.] State history is going to become No. 1 overall,’ Ekwonu said Thursday during the NFL scouting combine. “…I wouldn’t be shocked if I became No. 1 overall. I feel like that’s something I’ve worked in. I feel like when the time comes, I wouldn’t be shocked.”
When asked if there was anything about the draft process that would surprise, the friendly Ekwonu politely replied “no sir”.
“I wouldn’t say pressure, but there are always expectations,” Ekwonu said of the No. 1 overall pick. “But with my work ethic… Ask any coach: I definitely put in the work. I do everything I can every day to meet those expectations.”
Mario Williams, taken by the Houston Texans in 2006, is the only other NC State player to be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Quarterback Roman Gabriel was the first overall pick in the 1962 AFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Gabriel was also selected second overall in the NFL Draft that year, behind Syracuse’s Ernie Davis, and signed with the Los Angeles Rams.
Ekwonu, who officially met the Jaguars on Tuesday in Indianapolis, has played both guard and tackle in his three seasons. His video clips are littered with defenders he blocked sprawled on the ground. He’s an overpowered player who many staff executives say still has plenty of room to grow when his technique matches his power.
He said he’s been working hard on pass-blocking drills while training in California for the past few weeks. And while he would be willing and able to move inside the guard if teams wanted him, Ekwonu sees himself as a potential striker.
“I’ve never been shy about bouncing inside and doing what’s best for the team, but if you ask me, personally, I definitely see myself as a left tackle,” said Ekwonu. barely scratching the surface of my potential at left tackle, and I feel like with a little work and a little refinement in my game, I can definitely be great at that.”
Ekwonu also has an inside track on an NFL training camp tradition for rookies — singing or talent shows — given his musical theater experience in elementary school, including roles in 101 Dalmations, Aristocats and Jungle Book. He also took four years of choir and specialized choir in high school.
“I actually had the lead in 101 Dalmations. I was Pongo the dog,” Ekwonu said. “That was a big step for me. … I have a pretty long range. I can sing tenor base. I actually sang a lot of tenor in high school because there wasn’t a lot of tenors, guys who can hit those high notes.
“…I will definitely do everything [in training camp] and show them that I can sing a little.”