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Carolina Panthers select NC State and Charlotte-native LT Ickey Ekwonu with 6th pick in draft

Listed as 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, Ekwonu played high school football at Providence Day in Charlotte.
Listed as 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, Ekwonu played high school football at Providence Day in Charlotte.
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 8:51 PM EDT
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LAS VEGAS (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers selected NC State left tackle Ikem (Ickey) Ekwonu with the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Ekwonu, 21, who was labeled as the “most feared linemen in the ACC” last year, was one of the top three offensive tackles in this year’s draft.

“He is the tone-setter. He is a smart guy. He is physical. He’s tough,” Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said. “He’s got every trait that you want in an offensive lineman. We are excited about that. He came in here and met with us a week or two ago and really impressed everybody so much.

Listed as 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, Ekwonu played high school football at Providence Day in Charlotte and was born in the Queen City. He spent three years at NC State.

“This a dream come true,” Ekwonu told NFL Network. “This whole moment just feels so surreal. The fact that I’ve been growing up being a Carolina Panthers fan and now I’m about to be in that building is really just crazy to me.”

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His former youth football coach nicknamed him “Ickey” because he looked like former Cincinnati RB Ickey Woods, according to NFL.com.

“There is no doubt that he can pass set, that he can run block, he’s got all those tools,” head coach Matt Rhule said. “I also believe in the person that he is. He’s from right here in Charlotte, he went to Providence Day. This is going to be a special place for him.”

The Panthers have desperately needed a reliable left tackle and Ekwonu should step right in as the new starter after playing all 12 games at that spot with the Wolfpack last year.

Ekwonu was named to the first-team Associated Press All-American team and received all-conference honors in 2021. He had a 91.6 PFF grade and allowed just 13 pressures.

The first five picks off the board were all defensive players for the first time in NFL history, leaving Carolina with the choice of any offensive tackle or quarterback that they wanted. No QBs ended up being taken in the top 10.

“I was actually very surprised that all three tackles were there,” Fitterer said. “We had started to hear that four defenders may go first, one, two, three, four. But in this situation, this is the best-case scenario for us.”

The Panthers haven’t used a first-rounder on a tackle since taking Jeff Otah 19th overall in 2008.

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