Is Top 2022 NFL Draft Prospect Ickey Ekwonu Named After Former Bengals RB Ickey Woods?

Officially, top 2022 NFL Draft prospect and former North Carolina State standout Ikem Ekwonu’s birth name is Ikemefuna. However, he went by “Ikem” in college, and that could be the name he uses during what he hopes will be a long and fruitful professional football career.

The keyword there is “could.”

Those who paid close attention to Ekwonu throughout the draft process likely heard analysts call him Ikem or Ickey. When football fans hear the name Ickey, they almost certainly think of former Cincinnati Bengals star running back Ickey Woods, a second-team All-Pro selection in 1988 best known for his “Ickey Shuffle” and one, shall we say, famous GEICO ad.

So, is Ickey Ekwonu named after Ickey Woods? Yes, and no.

As I noted earlier, the All-American offensive tackle’s birth name is Ikem. However, according to the two-time All-ACC’s NC State bio, a former coach nicknamed him “Ickey” because of a resemblance between offensive lineman and running back.

Below are pictures of both players. We’ll let you decide if you see any similarities.

Top 2022 NFL Draft prospect Ikem Ekwonu (L) and former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods.
Top 2022 NFL Draft prospect Ikem Ekwonu (L) and former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods | Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Whoever drafts Ekwonu can only hope he’ll have a superior career than Woods, who battled injuries after a stellar rookie season and only lasted four years in the league. NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein praised the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Ekwonu as a “gentlemen in class and killer on the grass” in a pre-draft scouting report.

“Ekwonu goes from amiable to angry once he steps foot on the field. He’s a long-limbed athlete and scheme-diverse run blocker with the potential to win with positioning or force. He has a highlight reel full of violent strikes and finishes but needs to cut his aggression with a little more control. … The football character and urgent field demeanor make it easier to grade the traits and anticipate him landing closer to his ceiling than his floor as either a guard or tackle.”

Lance Zierlein

All of that works for us, and it should appeal to teams early in the first round, too.

If Ekwonu ever scores a receiving touchdown in the NFL, can he please celebrate with the Ickey Shuffle? After how challenging and painful the last few years have been to us all, such a gesture and performance would create no shortage of smiles. Trust me on that one.

What? A man can dream, right?

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