Two seasons ago, defensive edge Kony Ealy played the most impressive game of his career on the game’s biggest stage: In Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos had no answer for him as he registered 3.0 sacks and an interceptions. Had his team at the time, the Carolina Panthers, won the game, Ealy would likely have been voted the game’s most valuable player.
Alas, the Panthers did not win, and a little more than a year later, they would trade him for moving up eight spots in the draft (from selection 72 up to selection 64). The team that took a flyer on the 25-year old is itself coming off a Super Bowl appearance, although won that ended in triumph: the New England Patriots.
Yesterday, Ealy met with the media at Gillette Stadium for the first time since the trade – an event he called a "bless[ing] to have another opportunity to better yourself in a fresh start". As part of re-starting his career in New England, the 2014 second round pick will work in an environment similar to one he experienced as a kid.
"The way coach Belichick runs his organization, I think, is obviously similar to the military lifestyle," Ealy answered when asked whether he had noticed anything about the Patriots reminding him of the military. After all, the defensive edge himself – just like his coach – grew up in a family with a military background.
His father Willie worked in the Army and served in the Vietnam War. He also single-handedly raised Kony alongside his ten brothers and sisters in St. Louis and later the rural town of New Madrid, Missouri. When asked how this affected his upbringing, Ealy pointed out that his father kept him out of a lot of trouble and was an attentive parent – one that also showed him to shoulder responsibilities even as a child.
"I really just had to grow up at an early age as far as really taking on that responsibility as I learned to," the 6’4, 275 lbs defender remembered: "Whether it was going to work and just kind of getting that fatherhood, learning how to do different characteristic traits, stuff that involves just being outside the house." It is something he recognizes in the Patriots organization as well.
Ealy, comparing the team to the military, pointed out that it is not exactly like that but it comes close in certain regards; an "organized organization" as he called it. "You just want to do things right and do things as most perfect as you can and if you fell short then, hey, at least you're trying hard," Ealy said. "Your job is to go out there and just try a little hard and get better each day. I think with that approach you get a championship-caliber team."
In 2015, he was part of a championship-caliber team; one that came within one game of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Now, with a Patriots team that features the deepest roster in the NFL, Ealy will get another very good shot at finally receiving his first Super Bowl ring. But as things stand right now, he does not worry about the future. "Let everything lie where it may," he noted. "Just worry about the present."