One of the most eloquent prospects to take the podium, it didn’t take long for N.C. State tackle and projected top-five selection Ikem Ekwonu to impress during his media session. Known for his physicality and aggressiveness toward opposing defenders, a look into the makeup of Ekwonu presents one of the more unique individuals in the entire class. A self-acclaimed musical theater enthusiast and a three-time member of the honor chorus in high school, a prospect set to hear his name called before the draft gets its feet wet in April, Ekwonu, the human, is an individual a franchise and city should fall in love with as both a mauler in between the hashes and as an integral part of the surrounding community wherever he ends up. A charismatic presence that provided an immediate light into what often becomes a monotone, sterile environment on media day, getting to know Ekwonu behind the facemask, without pads, could see him rise atop draft boards considering the importance of interviews and just how well the first-team All-American showcased himself in his first public appearance here in Indianapolis. A prospect, unlike many in the class, whose stock continued to rise exponentially over the season and during the pre-draft cycle, watching Ekwonu’s tape and learning more about the man behind the mask causes many to double-take considering his monstrous, dominating fashion of play juxtaposed by him passionately discussing the nuances of musical theater and the importance it played in his childhood. Quite frankly, Ekwonu’s persona is refreshing—and for an NFL team, a welcomed breath of fresh air in the coming months. As 15 minutes came and went, I can’t stress enough just how impressive Ekwonu truly was. While on-field drills are to come (on Friday) and pro days will follow in the next few weeks, Ekwonu’s charisma and aura will likely fall second fiddle to his 40-yard dash time and the number of times he’s able to bench 225 pounds. But for teams in search of a well-rounded face of the franchise that not only would be able to anchor a front five and represent a building block for a 53-man roster, but represent a face amid turmoil, a voice to rally around under turbulence, and an individual with the necessary psyche to handle a media storm of what potentially lies ahead, there are few talents in the class—if any—that rival the blend of intelligence, athleticism, and appeal that Ekwonu provides.
- May 01, 2023
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