Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou's Ealy Is Playing for Keeps; Native St. Louisan and Former New Madrid Player Says He Strives to Succeed More for His Sister Than for Himself

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou's Ealy Is Playing for Keeps; Native St. Louisan and Former New Madrid Player Says He Strives to Succeed More for His Sister Than for Himself

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, Mo. - When he arrived at Mizzou from New Madrid, Mo., two years ago, defensive end Kony Ealy was a scrawny 208 pounds, bewildered by the playbook and daunted by competition that included eventual first-round NFL draft pick Aldon Smith.

Now the 6-foot-5 Ealy weighs about 265 pounds, is more nimble and mobile and knows where he's going as he's moved to the top line of the depth chart entering Mizzou's final preseason scrimmage today.

"And all of a sudden you go, 'Whoa, where might this go?' " Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said.

The "little flashes of brilliance" that were "too few and far in between" early on, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said, now are converging, and Ealy will play often even if Brad Madison and Michael Sam claim the starting end jobs.

"Some day, he's going to be a very dominant player," Kuligowski said.

It's all starting to blossom, he said, because of Ealy's "internal drive to be a great player."

But that drive doesn't just come from within himself.

"I really play more for my sister than I play for myself," Ealy said. "She's like my inspiration. Every time it gets hard and I have to dig down just a little bit more, I think of her."

His sister, Sierra Jones, 21, suffers from chromosomal damage that impairs her ability to speak, their father, Willie Ealy said.

Her vocabulary essentially consists of "Daddy" and "Kony," the father said, but she has a lot more to say than that.

"You never see her frown up or anything," said Kony Ealy, adding that he communicates with her in a kind of improvised sign language. "She's smarter than me and you probably both ... It's a gift."

One that will always be part of his life.

"He's going to have to take care of her when I'm gone; that's just a fact," said Willie Ealy, 66, who no longer is with their mother and is on disability because of diabetes he attributes to Agent Orange from his time in the Air Force in Vietnam.

Ealy's internal drive also was primed by his father, "who loves him very much," Kuligowski said. …

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