Since 2009, Missouri has had six players drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Defensive end Kony Ealy wants to make it seven.
Ealy, who declared for the draft after racking up eight sacks and 14 tackles for a loss last season, is a versatile and athletic edge rusher. He made 42 tackles last season, so he can also play the run, and broke up six passes to go with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown at Indiana.
He’s a smart player, who can also drop into coverage.
Some teams might consider bulking him to play inside on a 4-3 defensive line, while other might try to slim him down for an outside linebacker role in a 3-4 system.
Ealy is a high-motor guy, which is a good thing as he runs the NFL’s pre-draft gantlet in New York City, a test of endurance that rivals any game in the SEC.
The Star tracked down Ealy for a quick email Q before the first round of the NFL Draft kicks off tonight:
Q: Has anything about the draft process surprised you?
“Not really. It’s a lot different hearing about the process as opposed to experiencing it for yourself.”
Q: Are you nervous for Thursday?
“Not at all. More so ready to see where I end up. I’m ready to find new home.”
Q: How important is it for you get drafted in the first round and continue that Missouri tradition — plus save yourself a nervous night waiting for the second round?
“It’s very important and would mean a lot to me to be able to carry on that tradition for Mizzou. I have very high expectations for myself and have put a lot of hard work in, so I’m looking forward to (Thursday).”
Q: Is it exciting to think so many of your teammates also have a chance to get drafted or signed by NFL teams?
“Definitely — I want to see them do well. We’re all going our own ways now and we have to pave our own paths. I’m glad that they have the opportunity to go play a sport that they love and make money doing it.”
Q: What makes you confident you will thrive as a pro and what position or system fits you best?
Ealy: “I honestly feel that I could fit into any system or position if given the right tools and instruction. I’ve always been confident. At every level, I’ve always excelled and I look forward to having the opportunity to prove that I can do so at the next level. This isn’t my first rodeo, it’s just a bigger stage.”