'Like a movie': NC State's Ekwonu thrilled to be a Carolina Panther and play for his hometown team

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Friday, April 29, 2022
'Like a movie': NC State's Ekwonu thrilled to be a Carolina Panther
It's a dream come true for NC State's "Icky" Ekwonu after being selected by the Carolina Panthers in the NFL Draft.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- N.C. State offensive lineman Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu is going to his hometown to play for the Carolina Panthers.

Ekwonu was the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft in Las Vegas on Thursday night and is the first Wolfpack player ever drafted by the Panthers.

"Being able to play on a team as you grew up being a fan that was really just you know, it's it's really just almost like a movie almost," Ekwonu said after being selected. "It's crazy."

Ekwonu's father, Tagbo, shared in the excitement.

"This could not have been scripted better as our secret wish was for him to be close to home," Tagbo Ekwonu said.

Ekwonu was raised in an athletic family. His father was a college standout in Nigeria, his mother was a high school track star and his twin brother, Osita, plays linebacker for Notre Dame.

One of Ekwonu's nicknames is the "Pancake King" because he flattens guys on the field. The team hands out syrup bottles after games for every pancake block.

"I'm always pretty excited on Sundays to come in and watch the game because they give out bottles of syrup, and that guy typically he'll get anywhere from 10 to 15 bottles of syrup each game. But that just shows how he plays the game," said Dantonio Burnette, NC State's Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Strength & Conditioning for football.

Burnette said the team and staff couldn't be more proud of Ekwonu's accomplishment, sharing in the excitement of his draft to the NFL.

"It means a lot to our program," Burnette said. "It just shows that we're continuing to do things the right way. It was awesome to see he could get the opportunity to actually go to the Carolina Panthers. I know he grew up a huge Panthers fan. And once again, it just shows the coach going and our staff is doing a really good job of developing young men and giving them opportunities to make it to the NFL. He's the guy that's gonna bring the energy to the group. One of the things that stands out about Ickey, I know his faith means a lot to him. And that's the same for his family."

Ekwonu hasn't yet signed his contract with the Panthers. The first home game in Charlotte will be in September, the exact date will be released with the full schedule in May.