Now, the two will be teammates.
The Carolina Panthers selected Mays, an offensive lineman from Tennessee, with their second pick of the sixth round (199th overall) on Saturday in the NFL Draft.
He and Ekwonu, the Panthers' choice at No. 6 overall on Thursday, will look to help Carolina's offense improve after spending roughly three hours en route to their futures together.
"We were sitting right next to each other on the plane to the combine, so it was a tight squeeze," said Mays, who is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds.
Mays was a stalwart on a Tennessee offensive line that paved the way to a four-win improvement in the team's record from 2020 to 2021. He played all ten games at right tackle for the Volunteers last season, and he's played at every other line position during his four-year college career.
He said he is confident of filling in at any position, but he assumes he might go anywhere on the inside with Carolina.
Mays spent his first two college football seasons at Georgia, where he appeared in 25 total games with 18 starts. He became a continuation of a Knoxville legacy, where his father, Kevin, played and his brother, Cooper, is currently a fellow offensive lineman. Mays said he and his brother dreamed of playing collegiately together, and he was fortunate that dream became a reality.
The experience in Athens readied him for the next level, too: Mays pointed out that he dealt with this year's first overall pick, Travon Walker, in practices. Fellow Bulldogs defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt, also his old teammates, were first-round selections too.
View photos of Tennessee offensive lineman Cade Mays, drafted by Carolina in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.