Kony Ealy and Shane Ray were last together on the same field during the 2013 season when the University of Missouri defensive ends helped the Tigers win the Southeastern Conference East Division championship and then the Cotton Bowl.
On Sunday, they’ll meet again in Super Bowl 50.
“It’s fun,” Ray told KMOX Radio during Super Bowl media day. “Me and Kony have always competed against each other. When I was a young guy he was a little bit older at Mizzou and we were competing for playing time. So we’ve always kind of had that kind of relationship.
“More importantly, we’ve always had so much respect for each other. I’m so happy for him and everything that he’s been able to do with the Panthers. Being across from me in the Super Bowl, that’s big time and regardless of who wins and who loses we’re going to exchange jerseys and we’re still going to be brothers.”
Ealy was a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2014 and recorded five sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during the regular season. He has nine sacks in two seasons.
Ray was first-round pick (No. 23 overall) by the Broncos last spring after being selected as the SEC defensive player of the year during his final season in Columbia. He recorded four sacks in 14 games during the regular season.
Ealy called the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl a dream come true. That he’ll get to compete against his old teammate makes it even more special.
“That’s really big because we’re coming from the same program, so I know what that guy’s been through, he knows exactly vice versa with me,” Ealy said. “I’ll be happier if we win, but if he wins that’s my brother still and I couldn’t be more proud for him.”
Ealy and the Panthers faced off against another one of his former teammates, Markus Golden, in the NFC Championship game two weeks earlier when Carolina defeated Arizona to advance.
Ray was asked this week if he keeps in touch with Golden and Ealy.
“I talk to all of them,” Ray said. “Those are my brothers. We did a lot together. We sacrificed a lot. Now that we’re all in the league and we’ve seen how hard work has helped us become better players, we always talk and look back on back when we were young guys. I just talked to Markus after the championship game. They lost but it’s just the fact that, I was like, man, me, you and Kony are playing in championship games to go to the Super Bowl. It’s a surreal feeling but it’s awesome.”
Ray’s Broncos made their appearance at Super Bowl media day before Ealy’s Panthers did. So the Broncos rookie linebacker was asked if he had a message for a reporter to give to his old teammate.
“Tell him his little bro’s got much love, I’m excited to see him and let’s compete,” Ray said. “Let’s do what we do, let’s be dogs.”