RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina State football coach Dave Doeren knew right away Ike Ekwonu would be a special player.
“When I saw him play in person, it was one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen by a lineman,” Doeren said. “He played both ways the entire game. And there was a play when he was on offense and their team threw an interception and he went down the field and just drilled the guy.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid tackle that hard in my life.”
Vicious tackle aside, Ekwonu is loved by his teammates.
“I love that man to death,” said running back Ricky Person. “We hang out with each other outside of football.”
Still, it’s on the field where Ekwonu’s play is getting rave reviews. The sophomore from Charlotte leads the team in pancake blocks. Film sessions are must-see where Ekwonu’s involved.
“One hundred percent, without a doubt,” Person said. “Because you know it’s Ike and Ike’s going to make a play regardless. There’s been plenty of times I’ll catch myself on the sidelines or during film and we would be like, ‘Man look what Ike did.'”
Ekwonu started the last seven games at left tackle a year ago as a true freshman. First-year players rarely start on the offensive line.
“I came back (from a recruiting trip to see Ekwonu) and told the staff, ‘That guy will start as a freshman on the offensive line,'” Doeren predicted. “And they all (his coaching staff) were like, ‘That’s hard to do.’ When you see something like that in person, it was impressive.”
Ekwonu led the team in pancake blocks as a freshman with 37. He’s already surpassed that number this season with at least four games to go.
“He’s the instigator of the pancake world around here,” Doeren said. “He’s the guy who sets the bar for knockdowns and pancakes, and the guys all compete for that. I know our whole sideline gets juiced when he does that in a game.
“I mean, how many teams just stand there and can’t wait to watch their tackle block somebody?”
Not many. But, at N.C. State, it seems to be a thing.
“Ike’s a great ballplayer and I love that man to death,” Person said.