Thanks to a pair of defensive linemen with compelling stories and intriguing names — Ziggy and Star — the 78th annual NFL draft, which kicks off Thursday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, could be one for the ages for the Beehive State.
BYU’s Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah and Utah’s Star Lotulelei are projected as top-15 picks in the first round. Some believe they both could be taken among the first five picks. If, as expected, Ansah and Lotulelei go in the first round, it would be a historic achievement. The Cougars and Utes have never had first-round selections in the same draft.
Meanwhile, this is the third-consecutive NFL draft where at least one Utah State Aggie is likely to be picked. Just a few years ago hearing the name of a Utah State player at the NFL draft was an anomaly. From 2000 to 2010 an Aggie was drafted just four times — a rare Chris Cooley or Kevin Curtis that was able to show his talent despite playing for a downtrodden team. Things are different now.
“I think it’s a testament of where the program is,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “It’s a product of our recruiting and it’s a product of our development.”
While Ansah and Lotulelei headline this year’s local crop of NFL hopefuls, a number of other players from the state could also be drafted.
Contributing: Jeff Call, Dirk Facer, Kraig Williams, Trevor Phibbs, Landon Hemsley and Matt Petersen helped compile this list.