A defensive player from Brigham Young University went in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
How many of us would have believed that was going to happen last December?
How many of us would have thought that player would be Kyle Van Noy?
Leading up to NFL Draft Day 2013, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah became one of the biggest stories. NFL draft gurus couldn't get enough of him. Ansah's draft stock went from "undrafted free agent" to "top-5 pick" in a matter of months.
As predicted by many experts, Ansah did go to the Detroit Lions with the fifth pick in the first round. That was the easy part. Now he's got the pressure of living up to the hype. He's got to prove he's more than just a cool name.
Can he do it?
Can he avoid being like another of Provo's favorite sons, Jimmer Fredette, who largely has languished in two seasons in the NBA?
If you ask Ziggy, that's not even a question.
Ansah quoted his favorite scripture leading up to the draft, D&C 6:36: "Doubt not, fear not." There's no doubt in his mind.
Van Noy, who has also been his roommate, likes to point out a couple of reasons why he thinks Ansah will be successful. "People don't realize how smart he is," Van Noy said. He just got his degree as a statistics major. He knows the odds he is facing probably better than anyone.
The other comment Van Noy made that points to success for Ansah is: "He's a good football player, but even a better person off the field." Even through all of the hubbub over his Senior Bowl and NFL combine performances, Van Noy says Ansah has been able to "stay grounded" and "he's a very humble person." Even on draft day, he spent time going to a children's hospital.
But is Detroit the right fit? Can Ansah succeed in a place that many haven't?
The Detroit coaching staff seems to think so. They saw him up close when they coached him during at the Senior Bowl. He made some first-round offensive linemen look awful.
Detroit's defensive scheme looks to be better for Ansah as well. Many analysts think he played out of position at BYU, and that he will thrive in a 4-3 defensive front.
He may not have as good of a roommate in Detroit, but he should look good on the field alongside Ndamukong Suh. Do a little "good cop, bad cop" with Suh, and opposing offenses will soon be asking for their phone call to the booth.
Spending their top pick on Ansah, the Lions know there's a lot of risk. After all, he has only been playing American football for three years. But the Lions also see a "huge ceiling" to his potential. Comparisons to top players like Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants show that they aren't the only ones who think Ansah will do well.
Ziggy is raw.
Ziggy needs work.
But if you take a look at the statistical projections based on his past year, Ziggy could just be taking off.
Todd Hougaard is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a Utah native. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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