10:19 AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS — North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu has done his homework, and he believes he can be — and is prepared to handle being — the No. 1 pick of next month’s NFL draft.
Ekwonu is currently projected by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 1 overall pick. He’s ranked as the No. 2 prospect by Kiper and No. 4 by ESPN’s Todd McShay (behind Alabama tackle Evan Neal).
“I think I would be the third player in [N.C.] State history to go No. 1 overall,” Ekwonu said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “… I wouldn’t be shocked if I went No. 1 overall. I feel like that’s something I’ve put the work in for it. I feel like when that time comes, I wouldn’t be shocked by it.”
Asked if there was anything about the draft process that would surprise the personable Ekwonu said politely “no sir.”
“I wouldn’t say pressure, but there’s always expectations,” Ekwonu said of being the No. 1 overall pick. “But with my work ethic … Ask any coach: I definitely put the work in. I do everything I can every day to fulfill those expectations.”
16hMel Kiper Jr.
8dJordan Reid and NFL Nation
Mario Williams, taken by the Houston Texans in 2006, is the only other N.C. State player to be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. Quarterback Roman Gabriel was the first overall pick in the 1962 AFL draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Gabriel was also selected No. 2 overall in the NFL draft that year, behind Syracuse’s Ernie Davis, and signed with the Los Angeles Rams.
Ekwonu, who formally met with the Jaguars on Tuesday in Indianapolis, played both guard and tackle in his three seasons. His video highlights are littered with defenders that he’s blocked sprawled on the ground. He’s an overpowering player who many personnel executives believe still has plenty of room to grow when his technique matches his power.
He said he’s put in plenty of work in pass blocking drills while training in California in recent weeks. And while he would be willing and able to move inside at guard if teams wanted him to, Ekwonu considers himself a tackle prospect.
“I’ve never been shy about bouncing inside and do the best thing for the team, but if you’re asking me, personally, I definitely see myself as a left tackle,” Ekwonu said. “I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of my potential at left tackle, and I feel like with some work and some refinement in the my game I can definitely be great at it.”
Ekwonu also has an inside track on an NFL training camp tradition for rookies — singing or talent shows — given his background in musical theater in elementary school, including roles in 101 Dalmations, Aristocats and Jungle Book. He also took four years of chorus and honors chorus in high school.
“I actually had the lead in 101 Dalmations., I was Pongo the dog,” Ekwonu said. “That was a big step for me. … I have pretty long range. I can sing base to the tenor. I actually sang a lot of tenor in high school because there weren’t a lot tenors, guys who can hit those high notes.
“… I’ll definitely go all out [in training camp] and show them I can sing a little bit.”
Source: ESPN NFL