Quantcast

Detroit Lions' Ziggy Ansah thankful he didn't make it in basketball

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 11:22 p.m. MDT

Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick, addresses the media during an NFL football news conference the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday.  (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press) Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick, addresses the media during an NFL football news conference the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday. (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Ziggy Ansah has a lot to be thankful for, and he knows it.

The first-round pick of the Detroit Lions has had what he calls "a crazy journey" that started in Ghana, took him to Brigham Young and now the automobile capital of the world.

"I don't even know how to start," Ansah said Friday, a day after Detroit drafted him No. 5 overall. "I can't explain what I feel right now."

Ansah, though, does plan to let BYU basketball coach Dave Rose know how he feels about being cut from his team twice.

"One thing I've got to do when I get back to Utah, I'm going to go to coach Rose ... and thank him so much for not letting me play," he said.

Detroit feels fortunate, too. The Lions needed a defensive end to play right away and determined the 6-foot-5, 271-pound Ansah can do it despite having just three years of football experience.

Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick meets with Lions team president Tom Lewand after arriving at the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013.  aAnsah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday.  (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press) Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick meets with Lions team president Tom Lewand after arriving at the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. aAnsah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday. (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press)

If he pans out as a pass-rushing and run-stopping force, Detroit will have gotten something good out of its 4-12 record in 2012 because it gave the franchise an opportunity to spend a week with Ansah on and off the field at the Senior Bowl.

"He has very, very good football instincts and he's still new to the game," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "Probably the best thing that we've went through was just getting to know him as a person. The right kind of guy for Detroit, a hardworking humble guy that respects the game and respects what it takes to get here. We were impressed by his seriousness and his work ethic."

Elizabeth Cole said her son has always been driven to be the best in everything he does in life. He earned an academic scholarship to attend BYU, where he's an actuarial science major, and has talents that are obvious on the track, soccer fields and basketball courts.

Cole isn't surprised at her son's success, but couldn't have predicted he would play in the NFL.

Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick meets Lions fans Mike Cesarz, right, and Mike Navalta, second from right, after arriving  at the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday.  (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press) Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick meets Lions fans Mike Cesarz, right, and Mike Navalta, second from right, after arriving at the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday. (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press)

"We don't play football in Africa," she said, looking and sounding awestruck after her son's news conference at Lions headquarters. "I didn't know anything about football. When I'm watching the game, I am only watching Ziggy, not the game because I don't understand it."

Ansah moved to the United States in 2008 after some missionaries he befriended suggested he attend BYU and play basketball. He fell short in hoops, ran for the school's track team wand eventually took the advice of friends and asked Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall for a tryout in 2010.

"He was the one who said, 'Yes,' to me when I wanted to start this game so he definitely deserves some credit," Ansah said.

When Ansah attempted to suit up for the first time, he recalls trying to put his thigh pad when his knee pad was supposed to go in his football pants.

Ezekiel Ansah, from Brigham Young, stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Barry Sanders after being selected fifth overall by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Radio City Music Hall in New York.  (Jason DeCrow, Associated Press) Ezekiel Ansah, from Brigham Young, stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Barry Sanders after being selected fifth overall by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Radio City Music Hall in New York. (Jason DeCrow, Associated Press)

"I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I was a mess."

The Lions, though, are counting on Ansah to be more than a feel-good story. They need him to help make plays to help compensate for the loss of starting defensive ends Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and key reserve Lawrence Jackson.

And, they're confident he can do it next season — his fourth on a football field — in a leap like the league saw a New York Giants defensive end make after being drafted 15th overall in 2010.

"We've seen a couple different players do this," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "Jason Pierre Paul went right from junior college, played one year at South Florida and next thing you know, he went on and had a great year. I think that a guy like Ziggy can do the same kind of things."

Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick, addresses the media during an NFL football news conference the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday.  (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press) Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick, addresses the media during an NFL football news conference the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday. (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press)

__

Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company