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Redshirt sophomore punter Trenton Gill attempts a punt during NC State's game against Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Nov. 21, 2019. The Wolfpack lost 28-26.

NC State football’s brotherhood of Pack Pros grew even stronger during the 2022 NFL Draft, with two members of last year's team having their names called out on the big stage.

For offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, it was never a question of “if”, but rather “when”. Mock drafts had Ekwonu bouncing all over the board, with there being the potential for him to go as high as No. 1 overall, but he’d find his eventual landing spot as the sixth overall pick heading down the road to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Deemed “the most feared lineman in the ACC” a season ago by The Athletic, Ekwonu’s body of work as a member of the red-and-white spoke for itself for teams giving the big man a look. His combination of power and finesse in the run blocking game made him a strong enough candidate for the first offensive player off the board this year, staying in-state with the Carolina Panthers.

With a 6-foot-4-inch, 310-pound frame, Ekwonu’s unique flexibility and nimbleness make for an individual that can provide an immediate impact on the field. The lineman’s ability to use his power in the trenches in combination with his playmaking ability in the open field will prove extremely useful for a Carolina squad that desperately needed to address its issues on the front line. 

Ekwonu was the safest pick for the Panthers at No. 6 overall, with his 6.73 prospect grade highlighting his ability to be a year one starter. His performance at the combine only added to his resume, with a 4.93-second 40-yard dash to back up his insanely athletic style of blocking. 

Whether viewers see Sam Darnold, third-round selection Matt Corral or even a new face under center this year for the Panthers, they can rest assured that Ekwonu is going to take care of his blocking assignments.

The second Wolfpack alum to come off the big board was punter Trenton Gill, who established himself as one of the best at his position in the conference a season ago. Unlike Ekwonu’s selection, Gill’s rested a lot more on “if”, as opposed to “when”, but he would eventually have all his doubts relieved when the 34th pick of round seven was announced. Packing up and heading off to the windy city, Gill has a lot to prove with the Bears.

Fortunately, Chicago’s special teams unit has been filled with uncertainties regarding its personnel for the past couple of seasons, and Gill has a real shot to make his selection stick for the foreseeable future. He’ll compete with the newly acquired Ryan Winslow for snaps, with the Bears picking up the veteran earlier in the offseason, but Winslow’s rather unspectacular career thus far leaves plenty of room for Gill to make a name for himself.

Despite only two former members of the Pack hearing their names called, the conclusion of the draft each year always makes way for the ensuing chaos of undrafted free agency. Of the draft-eligible players remaining untaken, three have already joined teams through the process.

Running back Zonovan Knight found his home with the New York Jets and his running mate in the backfield, Ricky Person Jr, will be teaming up once again with Emeka Emezie with the Baltimore Ravens. 

All three players find themselves in favorable landing spots, with Knight having the opportunity to make a splash in the Jets’ return game, similarly to how he was able to do throughout his years repping the red-and-white, and Person Jr and Emezie joining a Ravens squad with plenty of unanswered questions at the offensive skill positions. 

Whether it was the way they all imagined it or not, the newly minted Pack Pros now officially begin their NFL careers and will more than likely have the NC State faithful backing them all the way.

Managing Editor

My name is Wade Bowman, a senior in the Poole College of Management studying marketing. I've been at Technician since September 2020.