Steve Young, Ziggy Ansah connected through charity work in Ghana
Young's foundation paved the way for BYU star
Meanwhile, the Sport Court at Golden Sunbeam also attracted LDS missionaries serving in Ghana. It was there that Ansah became acquainted with the missionaries, which led to him to joining the LDS Church.
"The new Sport Court that we put in, all the missionaries would come and play there on certain nights," Young said. "Pickup games would happen."
Who knows? Had there not been a Sport Court there, it's likely that Ziggy wouldn't have hung out at Golden Sunbeam as much as he did, and perhaps he wouldn't have met the missionaries, listened to their message, and joined the LDS Church. And Ansah probably wouldn't have ended up at BYU, where he learned the game of football and eventually became a defensive star.
When Young arrived in Accra in 2007, he played basketball with numerous Ghanaian kids.
"I might have played basketball with Ziggy when I was over there," Young said. "I just don't have any memory of it."
The Sunbeam School headmaster, Emmanuel Opare, remembers telling Forever Young representatives about Ansah.
"When Forever Young came to Ghana and visited the school, I introduced Ziggy to them and told them that we were looking for sponsorship for this young man whom we strongly believed had some potential in sports and was also academically outstanding," Opare said. "However, nothing happened. At that time, he was 18 years old and 6-foot-3-inches tall, which in our Ghanaian eyes, was very tall for basketball and therefore merited some consideration."
Tanner recalls his second encounter with the kid known as Ziggy.
"On a subsequent trip to Ghana, the headmaster of the school said, 'Hey, you've got to come watch this kid play basketball.' I actually took a few photos of Ziggy playing on that Sport Court. Now I wish I had taken better photos. You just don't see any great basketball players in Ghana typically. It's a pretty new sport in Ghana. Ghanaians are typically not big. He was easily dunking the basketball, and he was quite a physical specimen. I didn't think anything of it. The headmaster made the comment, 'Someday, he's going to play basketball in the U.S.,' and that was the last I ever thought of him."
In addition to his natural athletic ability, Ansah excelled in the classroom, posting outstanding grades and scoring high on college entrance exams. While waiting to enroll in college, Ansah returned to Golden Sunbeam as a teaching assistant and tutored students in mathematics. After being baptized by Ken Frei, one of the missionaries that taught the gospel to Ansah, Opare confirmed Ziggy a member of the LDS Church. It was the Opare family, confident that Ansah would succeed in the United States, that helped Ziggy apply to attend BYU.
"We strongly believed he would be able to fulfill his dreams in sports," Opare said.
Though, of course, Opare thought that sport would be basketball — not football.
Once Ansah was accepted as a student to BYU, the Opares came to the rescue again by obtaining a visa for him, financing his trip to Provo, and providing funds for him to be a student.
"To the glory of God," Opare said, "upon enrollment, Ziggy was given an academic scholarship by BYU. We saw the potential in that young man and actually took a chance on him, and it has worked. We have big dreams for the children who pass through our school, and we hope to achieve this, one student at a time, in spite of all our challenges, God willing.
"In a nutshell, (Opare's wife) Monica and I feel very proud that we laid the foundation for Ziggy to reach this far. In fact, Ziggy was not only a student of Golden Sunbeam but was more of a son to us. He spent most of his time in our home, and his mother once remarked that she always knew where her son was, anytime she did not find him home. We wish him very well and hope he will visit his alma mater in the nearest future to help others to fulfill their dreams."
Last summer, it was Opare who told Tanner, "Hey, did you know that Ziggy's playing football for BYU?"
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