BYU football: Cougars helping Ziggy Ansah deal with increased attention
Poppinga and defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi are among those on BYU's staff that are counseling Ansah, ensuring that he isn't "surrounding himself with some scumbag guy out there that's trying to take all of his money and take advantage of him,” Poppinga said. “He's really naive to all that. He honestly has no clue of what's happened to him. Being in Sports Illustrated, he doesn't get that. It doesn't make sense to him. I was talking to him about it and he looked at me like, 'What's the big deal?' It's cool to see a kid that's come as far as he's come and being as humble as he's stayed and not got caught up into everything. He's an impressive kid. I'm lucky to be around him as a coach and to see his progression over the years."
Poppinga recalls when Ansah first walked on to the team that he didn't know anything about football.
"His first year, we ran him down on kickoff and he's just running. He's not running to the ball, just running," he said. "He didn't know the object of the game was to tackle the guy with the ball. To see how far he's come he understands our defense, all-around, probably next to Kyle (Van Noy), there's not a guy that understands it better."
Van Noy, who is Ansah's roommate, recalls watching Ansah trying to put on his pads for the first time and putting them on the wrong way or putting them on backward.
"I kind of watched and laughed," Van Noy said, adding that Ansah didn't know how to get into a three-point stance. "The first time he lined up, he looked like a crouching frog. He was just raw. He still is raw. But the potential he has is more than anyone I've ever seen play a sport ... I'm just glad I could be on the ride with him. No matter what success I have that comes to me, having someone succeed more than you is so much better than your own. That's probably why I'm so happy for him."
Ken Frei met Ansah while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana several years ago. The two played basketball together and they became close friends. Frei baptized Ansah into the LDS Church and for a time they were roommates at BYU.
"Here's a guy from Africa that I knew who's now being talked about on ESPN. It's kind of crazy," Frei said. "And it's been a lot of fun."
As Ansah has faced increased scrutiny from the media and scouts, he's concentrating on his school work and football.
"He told me there were too many people in his life," Frei said. "He wanted to block all of that out and focus on finishing the season strong."
Ansah told reporters this week he doesn't know how much NFL players make. Ansah's family, like most people in Ghana, "don't have a lot of money or things," Frei said.
Signing an NFL contract "would be a life-changer financially, in what he could do to support his family," Frei said. "I'm sure that's something Ziggy has thought about."
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