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Ties that bind: Ziggy's bond with LDS family in Ghana led him to BYU

Published: Friday, Sept. 13 2013 9:22 p.m. MDT

While Monica regularly worried about Ziggy while he was at BYU, one day she saw something on her computer screen that bothered her. It was a picture of Ziggy sporting a dreadlocks hair style, and Monica groaned. She didn’t like it at all.

“I said, ‘What is my son up to?’” she remembered with a smile. “We called him and asked him to cut it off. I told him, ‘Ezekiel, I don’t think I like to have my son with this kind of hair. I do not think I like this hairdo. This hairdo looks like somebody who is a ruffian.’’”

Not long after that conversation, Ziggy obediently cut off his hair.

Avoiding the spotlight

The Opares were sorry to inform a reporter, who had traveled 7,000 miles from Utah to Accra, that Ziggy’s family wouldn’t be doing any interviews.

That morning, Monica Opare went to the Ansah home, located a few blocks up the dusty road from the Golden Sunbeam School in Adenta, to remind Ziggy’s mother, Elizabeth, about the interview with the reporter.

Ziggy's mom is a tall, reserved woman. She had done some interviews when she was an invited guest of the NFL to attend the draft in New York City in April.

After that overwhelming experience, Elizabeth accompanied her son to Detroit. Then it was off to Provo, so she could see where Ziggy had spent the previous four years of his life.

But Elizabeth, a registered nurse who is naturally shy and soft-spoken, felt she had said some embarrassing things during interviews in New York City.

One thing she said that week did make headlines, but it wasn’t something she said directly to the media. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters that in the Radio City Music Hall green room just before the draft began, Elizabeth asked Mendenhall what the chances were of an NFL team from Utah drafting her son. Mendenhall, of course, had to explain that there are no NFL teams in Utah. It seemed like a humorous, harmless anecdote.

Perhaps that’s what Elizabeth felt had embarrassed her son.

“She doesn’t know anything about football,” Monica explained. “She said something that was not correct, that she didn’t know much about. She feels she embarrassed Ezekiel. She’s afraid of making more mistakes, and more people will hear about it. That’s what her main concern is. She doesn’t want to make mistakes. I don’t know what mistakes she made. Ezekiel told her, ‘Mom, you make my friends tease me.’”

That’s why Elizabeth declined to be interviewed, despite Monica’s concerted efforts.

“When I went there this morning, I said, ‘You need to talk to the reporter. Ezekiel is your son,’” Monica said. “She told me, ‘You know Ezekiel is your son. I gave Ezekiel to you. He’s your son. So why don’t you say everything? You know more than I know about Ezekiel.’

"I said, ‘Yes, but you gave birth to Ezekiel before you brought him to my school.’ She said, ‘I gave him to you and you took charge of him. All I know is, you sent him to BYU. That’s all. You know the whole story.’”

Staying the course

Around the time Ziggy was drafted, the BBC Radio network produced a story about Ziggy that aired on a Ghanaian station. Ansah’s older brother was interviewed. The report helped elevate Ziggy’s status in Ghana, but he remains relatively unknown. That’s not surprising because, when it comes to sports in Ghana, soccer is unquestionably king.

Apparently, the Ansahs are trying to come to grips with all of the changes in Ziggy’s life. He is the youngest of five children and the only member of the LDS Church in his family.

At one point before Ziggy left for the United States, Monica said, one of Ziggy’s brothers advised him that once he arrived in America he should cut off ties with the Opares and live his own life.

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