CHARLOTTE - On Thursday night, the Panthers addressed a significant position of need by drafting one of the top offensive linemen in the 2022 draft class.
Ikem Ekwonu offers plenty to like on the football field, but maybe even more to admire off of it.
Let's get to know more about Carolina's first round pick.
--- Ekwonu went to Providence Day High School in Charlotte. Growing up he played a number of sports including soccer, wrestling and basketball with his twin brother, Osita. He also ran the 4x100-meter sprint relay in high school.
More than just a versatile athlete, Ekwonu brought his talents to the stage in acting and singing. In school, he performed in The Jungle Book, Aristocrats and held the lead role of Pongo in 101 Dalmations.
--- Ekwonu became the first player that Carolina has ever drafted out of N.C. State. The Panthers have now drafted a first-rounder out of the ACC or SEC in each of the last four seasons.
He was only a three-star recruit out of high school, but grew into a consensus All-American after three seasons. He only allowed three sacks in 2021 and had the second-best run-blocking grade of all qualified linemen, according to PFF.
Known for his aggressiveness on the field, Ekwonu went after his opponents and led the team in pancakes in 2020 and 2021, putting down 67 defenders last year. The NFL's Next Gen Stats researchers listed him as one of seven can't-miss-prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
--- Ekwonu has become known for his speed and versatility on the outside in a football landscape where blockers are expected to move sideline to sideline and extend plays downfield.
After running a 4.93 40-yard dash at the combine, Ekwonu joined 11 other offensive linemen with 40 times under five seconds, doubling the previous combine record of six for that position group.
N.C. State reported that Ekwonu once got up to a max speed of 18 MPH during a practice on campus, according to GPS tracking devices. Last season, only one NFL offensive lineman reached that max speed according to Next Gen Stats.
--- Ekwonu got the nickname "Ickey" from a youth football coach who compared him to then-Cincinnati running back Ickey Woods. However, his full Nigerian name, Ikemefuna Patrick Ekwonu, means "my effort will not be in vain."
View photos of Ickey Ekwonu with the Commissioner on the draft stage in Las Vegas.