Dick Harmon: Star Lotulelei, Ziggy Ansah are worthy of the draft recognition they'll receive Thursday night

Published: Wednesday, April 24 2013 4:05 p.m. MDT

Former Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei is expected to be chosen in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft Thursday night.

University of Utah athletic department

Star Lotulelei and Ziggy Ansah have set the perfect stage for local eyes to be glued to Thursday’s first-round broadcast of the 2013 NFL draft.

It’s a rarity for the state of Utah to produce two college football players whom multiple experts project could be taken in the first 10 picks of the first round. Both are LDS. Both have been hyped. Both are genuine gentlemen, the kind of guys that will adequately and properly represent the state of Utah as athletes and as men.

They are outstanding athletes who go about it in different ways. And both are about to become millionaires.

In short, they are worth cheering for. They deserve all the attention, recognition and money draft day can throw at them.

You can watch the first round of the NFL draft at 6 p.m. on ESPN or the NFL Network.

Both of these athletes are considered unique. Some call them athletic freaks of nature, possessing extraordinary skills and powers. They have been measured, weighed, timed, pinched, prodded, tested, interviewed and screened — and NFL folks like what they see.

While Lotulelei elected not to go to New York because he wanted to share the moment at home with family and friends, Ansah almost turned down the invitation because it is his graduation day. Ansah’s friends and advisers convinced him he could walk as a graduate later this summer and that he should be in New York at Radio City Music Hall for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Both these guys have stolen a lot of headlines this winter.

Lotulelei had a strange heart condition pop up at the NFL combine in Indianapolis back in February that shortened his testing at the event, but doctors have assured he’s fine. Ansah, a native of Ghana, has had his age questioned and his passport examined. No stone has been left unturned in investigating the prowess and background of these men.

Still, they will be front and center on the big stage Thursday.

And that’s a very big deal.

Both men come from humble origins. Star is the son of Tongan emmigrants who moved to the United States to find a better life for their children. Ansah, a convert of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left his country to seek a better education and play basketball.

Star’s football work in the trenches is sometimes underappreciated because of the pile of bodies he creates. Ansah’s speed work is sometimes easier to identify.

Lotulelei’s athletic prowess has been well-documented the past two years. He quickly rose to become the most-feared defensive lineman in the Pac-12. His size, strength, quickness and dominating play on the line of scrimmage are tattooed on video as evidence of his talent. As experts have broken down film, they’ve seen first-hand the havoc he brings to the line of scrimmage.

Folks have been talking about Lotulelei as a potential No. 1 overall pick for two seasons. When he didn’t come out early last year, his stock remained extremely high. It's stayed high all the way to now.

I remember seeing multiple games, including back-to-back games against BYU, when Lotulelei’s presence alone seemed to intimidate the Cougars into fumbles on their first possessions. He also did that against Pac-12 offensive lines.

Ansah’s resume is much shorter, and he's more of a mystery. He’s a flash entry on the scene, a man with almost no football resume; a special teams artist, backup defensive end and outside linebacker until teammate Eathyn Manumaleuna got injured this past season.

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