Mizzou Sophomore Looks to Continue Strong Defensive End Tradition
COLUMBIA -- Missouri has produced a few defensive ends now sacking quarterbacks in the NFL, Justin Smith and more recently Aldon Smith, but another Missouri defensive end is ready to make a name for himself this season.
Kony Ealy comes from the Bootheel, Southeast Missouri. He says he grew up playing with older kids, and it toughened him up.
Now the redshirt sophomore has learned from older Tigers on the defensive line and is ready to show he's ready to play in the S-E-C.
Ealy came to Missouri as one of the top prospects in the state, but don't blame him for taking a couple of seasons to rise to the top of the defensive end depth chart.
"He had to wait his turn. He's everything he's supposed to be. The next Aldon Smith. That's what I call him to mess with him about. He gets mad when he messes up and I tell him you don't look like Aldon to me," junior Sheldon Richardson said.
And Ealy doesn't want to draw comparisons to the former first round draft pick. He has his eyes on a bigger prize.
"Better, no question. We only get better here. You think you've seen one guy, there's going to be another guy coming right after him trying to be better than him. Trying to outperform him," Richardson said.
"I don't want to be Aldon or Jacquies (Smith). I want to make myself known as Kony Ealy," Ealy said.
Ealy picked up the first sack of his career last season, but is turning heads now because of his work off the field.
"He came a long way. He learned the playbook finally. He came in and made it his own," Richardson said. "Now he's just grilling up eating and we're sitting here talking about Kony Ealy."
"His strength, his quickness, his speed off the ball is amazing," junior Eric Waters said.
"From our freshman year until now it's a completely different dude. I mean, mentally, physically, every where. I mean he's a beast out there," junior Marcus Lucas said.
The beast has developed a relentless motor.
"He's trying to make a play every single time and that's one thing I've seen from him this year that I didn't see last year is how hard he was working every single practice even if he was tired or if he was sore and I'm sure that has a lot to do with his inspiration," junior James Franklin said.
His inspiration is his older sister, Cierra Jones, who lives with crippling disabilities.
"She's my inspiration, she's my everything," Ealy said. "So, when I go home I talk to her and then I kinda cry."
"When it got brought up one time he broke down a little bit, but he keeps moving forward. He knows what he's playing for," Richardson said.
"I just look at her and I'm like wow, she's not complaining. Everytime you look at her she's smiling, singing or something like that. I look at the hard times we have now and I'm complaining about it a lot it kinda makes me mad," Ealy said.
And now Ealy plans on taking out his anger on his opponents.
"She's inside me all the time. Anytime I think of something when it's getting down to the hard part, I think about her and my family and how I've grown up and I know I have to push forward," Ealy said.
Tiger tight end Eric Waters says it's a nightmare trying to block Ealy in practice. Waters says Kony's so fast off the ball, he's usually taken two steps before Waters can take one.
In the season opener agaisnt Southeastern Louisiana Kony Ealy made his 2nd career start a big one. He contributed with 4 tackles, and forced a fumble that was returned 7 yards for a touchdown by Michael Sam.