The Wolfpacker

May/June 2022

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 33 of 51

34 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY MATT HERB he Carolina Panthers could hardly have been more im- pressed with Ikem Ekwonu when they met with him in the weeks leading up to this year's NFL Draft. The NC State All-America offensive tackle appeared to have it all — the strength, the smarts, the competitive attitude, as well as an effervescent personality that was sure to light up any locker room in the league. In every way that mattered, Ekwonu seemed almost too good to be true. There was just one problem: He also seemed too good to be drafted by the Panthers. Carolina held the sixth pick, and some analysts were hailing Ekwonu as possibly the best player in the draft, of- fense or defense. When head coach Matt Ruhle and general manager Scott Fitterer got to- gether on the morning of the opening round to game out various scenarios for the first half-dozen picks, they thought their chances of landing Ekwonu were remote at best. "We went through like 50 scenarios," Ruhle said. "Not many of them had him still being available." But in an inversion of the draft's usual HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE Ikem Ekwonu Will Begin His Pro Football Career In A Familiar Locale T Ekwonu is the third NC State player in the past five years to be selected in the opening round of the NFL Draft, joining defensive end Bradley Chubb (fifth overall in 2018) and center Garrett Bradbury (18th in 2019). PHOTO BY ETHAN HYMAN, THE NEWS & OBSERVER

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