Panthers draft pick and Charlotte native Ikem Ekwonu is ready to give back to the community
The Panthers took Ekwonu, who played at Providence Day, with the sixth-overall pick.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Ikem ‘Ickey’ Ekwonu is coming home to play for the Carolina Panthers.
For Panthers fans, it’s easy to get excited about this pick, with Ekwonu expected to step in immediately at left tackle.
It’s also easy to get excited about this pick as a community.
Drafted just last night, the Charlotte native has already said he’s ready to give back off the field as well.
“He is a hero to many of us who love multi-sport athletes,” Providence Day Director of Athletics Nancy Beatty said.
Ekwonu graduated from Beatty’s school in 2019.
Aside from being a football player, wrestler, and track and field star, he was also an AP student and homecoming king, with a personality that could light up the room.
“The first thing that hits you is his smile, it’s infectious, his comical kind of demeanor,” Beatty said. “He doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
Ekwonu was a freshman All-American in his first year at NC State, and was considered one of the best offensive linemen in this draft.
He is a ferocious competitor on the football field, but he’s more than that.
“You know I’m also a guy who likes to get involved in the community a little bit, just gotta engrain myself into the culture,” he said before the draft.
Those who watched him grow up are especially eager to welcome him back home.
“We’re hoping that by being a Panther, that we will get to see him and be a part of our community again,” his former athletic director said.
Ekwonu not only has support from the community but from his coaches who rallied behind him in Las Vegas.
“He’s very excited to be back home in Charlotte,” Providence Day wresting coach Paul Burnam said. “His family’s there, I talked to mom. Mom’s super excited to be able to jump in the car and see the games and have grandma there as well. So he’s excited for the opportunity to represent 704. He’s going to do great things.”
His college coaches heaped on the praise as well.
“We are so proud of Ickey for what he’s accomplished and for the way he’s carried himself throughout his career,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said in a statement.
“I’m certainly proud of the pancakes and the accolades, but I’m even more proud of the type of teammate and man that he is. It’s really special that he’ll be playing in his hometown. The Panthers are going to love him.”
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