Brad Rock: Lions take the bigger risk in choosing Ziggy

Published: Thursday, April 25 2013 10:30 p.m. MDT

Ziggy Ansah, defensive end from Brigham Young University, signs an autograph for a fan the day before the 2013 NFL Draft, April 24 in New York City. (John Minchillo, AP Images for Nike) Ziggy Ansah, defensive end from Brigham Young University, signs an autograph for a fan the day before the 2013 NFL Draft, April 24 in New York City. (John Minchillo, AP Images for Nike)

First time I entered a Los Angeles freeway, things came at me pretty fast. Santa Ana passed before I could react, Anaheim and Norwalk, too. The exits, I barely noticed.

There were quick speed changes and lane jumps to negotiate, all against a backdrop of general confusion. Fortunately I figured things out before the month was over.

Ziggy Ansah should be so lucky.

BYU’s Ansah and Utah’s Star Lotulelei went Nos. 5 and 14 in Thursday’s NFL Draft, to Detroit and Carolina, respectively. Does the State of Utah now rule the planet?

Not exactly. This happens in Alabama all the time. The Crimson Tide supplied three picks among the first 11 this year. But this is the first time that two players from Utah colleges were picked so high in the same draft. The next highest was in 1987, when BYU’s Shawn Knight and Jason Buck went 11th and 17th.

Now it’s a matter of waiting to see which of this year’s pick proves the better choice. I guess I’m just a middle lane, 65 mph kind of guy. I’d have taken Lotulelei, though he’s a bit more, well, pedestrian.

Right now Ansah barely has his driver’s license.

It’s a tough call on which guy you’d want on your NFL team. Both are humble, hard-working talents. Both have an unlikely story. Ansah was living in Ghana when LDS missionaries baptized him and encouraged him to go BYU to play basketball. It didn’t work out.

Oh, wait, yes it did.

Lotuleli was a furniture mover until he caught the vision. Now all he’ll be moving are offensive linemen.

Both have fantastic names. It would be hard to find any better than Ziggy and Starlite (yes, that’s his real name; no this isn’t a David Bowie concert).

It’s not hard to imagine the headlines: “Detroit goes Ziggy for Ansah,” and “Mowtown is Digging Ziggy.”

As for Star, well, “A Star is Born” isn’t as flashy, but neither is he.

In honesty, both raised draft questions. Lotulelei was cleared by doctors after an abnormal heart test kept him out of the NFL combine in February. When you’re talking millions, it scares people. There’s no 3-year, 50,000-mile warranty.

Still, the Panthers basically know what they have in Lotulelei: A proven, physical earth-mover, ready to step in at defensive tackle when called. He won’t necessarily be spectacular but his strength is imposing. He can de-cleat blocking backs with a hard stare.

Then there’s Ansah, the freakishly athletic defensive end who didn’t hit the NFL’s radar until, oh, yesterday.

It’s amazing how these stories develop. Recruiters scour the country looking for top prospects and what happens? The LDS missionaries find Ansah in Ghana.

With the Church increasing its missionary presence, who knows how many more Ziggys will be found? (Answer: None this decade.)

Meanwhile, as great as Ansah’s speed is on the edge, he knows almost nothing about football. He couldn’t. He’s only been around it three years and has started just nine games.

That’s barely enough time to break a sweat, and certainly not enough time to be fully ready for the NFL.

When he first arrived at BYU, Ansah didn’t know about first downs, how to put on shoulder pads or the difference between the AFC and NFC.

He may yet turn to an official and demand a red card be assessed.

Still, the Lions took the risk, based on potential for greatness. They bought a race car that has barely been tested. His name was announced on Thursday by Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders. Here’s guessing that as far as Ansah knew, it was Joe Namath — who also took the podium on draft night.

I figure the NFL is a brutal place to learn on the fly. Thus, I would have chosen Lotulelei ahead of Ansah.

Ansah’s potential is great. I’d just be worried that somewhere along the line he would pick up the nickname “Wrong Way” Ansah.”

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: therockmonster; Facebook: therockmonster

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