Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm goes 1-on-1 with former NC State left tackle Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu. The unanimous All-American could be the first name called in the 2022 NFL Draft, so what makes Ickey tick? He’s a bit of a renaissance man. He chose to attend NC State over Harvard, Yale and other elite educational institutions, and the reason why shows the amazing character of this young man. Ekwanu comes from a family of smart and athletic overachievers, including his brother who plays linebacker at Notre Dame. Why should Ickey be the number one overall pick? Listen to the man himself tell you why.
ERIC EDHOLM: Well, we are pleased to be joined here at Yahoo! Sports by NC State offensive lineman, Ikem Ekwonu, possible top five pick in the draft, unanimous All-America selection this past year. But at one point, I read that your nickname, "Ickey," actually didn't just come from your name. It also came from the fact that the coach who saw you thought you look like Ickey Woods. Can you tell us the story and-- and how that came about?
IKEM EKWONU: I was in third grade. Because I was kind of big for my age, I was playing with, like, middle school-- like, seventh and eighth graders.
ERIC EDHOLM: [LAUGHS]
IKEM EKWONU: And I always wanted to play running back. I told the coach that that was always my dream position, is playing running back and being able to hold the ball in my hand and run with it.
And so, kind of just based off that a little bit, too, he said, yeah, you remind me of [INAUDIBLE] Cincinnati Bengals running back he used to watch, Ickey Woods. I took that home. And it really just-- kind of just stuck with me ever since the third grade.
ERIC EDHOLM: Do you do an Ickey shuffle, or-- I don't know. Were you a Bengals fan during their Super Bowl run this year at all? Did you see them in LA at all?
IKEM EKWONU: Unfortunately, I didn't get to see him. I know he was out here in LA. But yeah, I've always been able to do the Ickey shuffle. The second-- you know-- I looked up Ickey Woods and I saw that shuffle, that was just something I wanted to learn.
I actually added my own spin to it, but I'm kind of saving it for when I get the opportunity to score. So you're going to have to wait on that one, but I definitely had my own little spin to it.
ERIC EDHOLM: Fair enough. Maybe if you get picked number one overall, we can see a little teaser of it or something like that, I guess.
IKEM EKWONU: Me and Roger on stage. You might have to have to let him do with me. Yeah.
ERIC EDHOLM: You'll have to teach him the steps ahead of time. I promise you that. Right.
IKEM EKWONU: Yeah, exactly.
ERIC EDHOLM: Out of high school, you had offers from Harvard, Yale, Vanderbilt, other academic schools, so to speak. You picked a good academic school as well, but one more known for football. How did that decision come down?
IKEM EKWONU: You mentioned Harvard and Yale. One of the reasons that I decided not to go Ivy League is because of the financial aid situation. With the Ivy League, they don't offer athletic-based financial aid to the student athletes. With the opportunities I had to have a Fulbright scholarship and take that burden off my family, that's definitely something I looked into.
And then one of the things that drew me to NC State was the business school. I liked the networking opportunities and the career fair, and just everything involved in the pool calls and management, and being in the Research Triangle. So that-- the business school is a huge set mark off my list.
ERIC EDHOLM: You mentioned your brother playing at Notre Dame. Was there ever talk between you guys, like, hey, let's try to play together. Or was that-- you know, we hear about these package deals between brothers or things like that, friends in high school. Was that something you guys ever discussed before you went your separate ways?
IKEM EKWONU: Honestly, not really. We kind of just had our own processes. I mean, we talked about it. We just kind of wanted to go on our own path and kind of just pick our schools. And if it just so happened that we picked the same school, we definitely wouldn't have been opposed to it, but--
ERIC EDHOLM: Right.
IKEM EKWONU: As you can see, we winded up picking different schools, and I feel like, you know, it's worked out for us in the long run.
ERIC EDHOLM: Have you heard from teams in the NFL about where they project you? Are they seeing an offensive tackle, or are they saying, we view you as a guard? Is it kind of a combination of the two? Have you heard much feedback yet, to this point?
IKEM EKWONU: Yeah, so going into this 2021 season, a lot of the talks were just moving me into guard immediately. And I believe that's had a lot to do with my inefficiencies in my pass reception. And I feel like that was something that I harped on a lot this year in the offseason, really showing them pass pro, and proving to the scouts and to the teams that I can and I am a left tackle.
But you know, I've never had a problem you know bumping inside. I've always been a team player. So, you know, some teams might see me as a guard. Some teams might see me as a tackle. But if you ask me personally, I see myself as a left tackle.
ERIC EDHOLM: You might be the first pick in the draft. We don't know who it's going to be this year. There's a lot of mystery at the top of the draft. Either way, you're going high.
But if you had the opportunity to state your case to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are picking number one right now, to take you number one, how would it go?
IKEM EKWONU: Well, I just feel like, when you turn the film on, there's nobody in the class that you can see as dominating as me. That's something I've always taken pride on. And I feel like the refinement in my game and the pass pro-- especially from the 2021 season, you can see it on film. And I feel like, you know, there's more work to be done. But I've never been shy of the hard work.
My pass pro technique is the one weakness I have in this class that-- I feel like-- that I have a pretty strong case for going number one.