Jaren Wilkey, BYU
PROVO — The past several days have been like a whirlwind for Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah.
It started with a trip to New York City. There he attended meetings, posed for photo shoots, participated in a kids' clinic, answered the same questions from reporters over and over again, had long discussions with agents, enjoyed a reunion with his mother, dressed up in a cap and gown for a de facto graduation from BYU in a Manhattan hotel room, and became the No. 5 overall draft pick, going to the Detroit Lions in the National Football League.
Then Ansah, who grew up in Ghana, jetted to his new home in the Motor City, where he charmed the media there during a press conference.
When asked about the seemingly inherent quality of hating opposing quarterbacks that great NFL defensive linemen possess, Ansah replied, "I don't want to use the word 'hate.' If you love somebody, you want to grab them. I love quarterbacks."
The media that talked to Ansah this week from around the country found him to be uncommonly humble, innocent and candid.
"He's a breath of fresh air," said Dan VanWoerkom, one of Ansah's representatives. "That's what everybody in the NFL is saying about him."
Ansah drew considerable attention for wearing 3D glasses without lenses on draft night, just like he used to wear them around BYU's campus as a way to express his fun-loving personality.
But there's another side to this improbable, captivating story. While this is football, this isn't just about fun and games.
Ansah, who, before he finally earned a football scholarship last year worked part-time on BYU's campus as a custodian, is expected to receive a signing bonus of $12.5 million.
As for his salary, the No. 6 pick in last year's draft, cornerback Morris Claiborne, signed a four-year deal for $16.26 million (the financial terms of last year's No. 5 selection, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, were undisclosed).
What will that kind of money mean to Ansah's family?
"I don't think any of us could even begin to grasp that," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "When you see the pictures from where Ziggy's from (Accra, Ghana), and you see the country in general, then compare it to Radio City Music Hall, and the Green Room, and all the coverage that's happening and with the salaries that are paid to professional athletes, my biggest hope is that he can remain authentic and true to who he really is off the field, then combine that with his talent on the field for good."
Ansah will have to adapt to a new city, and his lifestyle is going to change in significant ways by virtue of being a professional athlete.
When Ansah's mom was asked if she is concerned about these issues last Thursday afternoon, hours before the draft, she replied, "He's level-headed. I'm not worried about that. He knows what he's doing."
To which Ziggy joked: "She thinks I know what I'm doing."
But by Thursday night in the Green Room, Elizabeth was hoping her son would be playing professional football in Utah, where he has well-established roots. Then she was told that Utah doesn't have an NFL team.
Is Ziggy prepared for this dramatic, life-changing transition?
"I think it remains to be seen," Mendenhall said.
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