The first texts that came through to me on my phone were from my kids, wanting to know when they could get Detroit Lions gear. He's a special person. Ziggy has a great opportunity to do so much for the game, for the people of Ghana, for BYU fans, for LDS Church members and for the city of Detroit. —Bronco Mendenhall, BYU football head coach
Mendenhall teleconference on Fri., Apr. 26, 2013
NEW YORK — BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall calls his experience attending the NFL draft in support of Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah "one of the highlights of my coaching career."
Mendenhall, who cut short a trip to Costa Rica to be here, enjoyed his time in the Green Room of Radio City Music Hall with Ansah's mother, Elizabeth Cole, and other members of the Ansah family and Ansah's close friends. It was the first time Mendenhall had met Ziggy's mom.
"It was just a real honor for me to be here," Mendenhall said. "I felt lucky to be part of coaching him. I felt lucky to be part of this."
At one point in the Green Room, Ansah's mother asked if there was a chance that her son could be drafted by a team from Utah. Mendenhall had to explain to her that Utah doesn't have an NFL team.
"The entire experience was completely overwhelming for her," the coach added.
Ansah didn't have to wait long to hear his name called, as he was drafted No. 5 overall by the Detroit Lions in the first round.
"The first texts that came through to me on my phone were from my kids, wanting to know when they could get Detroit Lions gear," Mendenhall said. "My kids travel with my team and they look up to him. My kids love him. He's a special person. To know the influence that he's had on them, and to be here, and to think what's going to happen in Detroit, that's pretty neat … You're talking about three years of football experience, with his best football still ahead of him. Ziggy has a great opportunity to do so much for the game, for the people of Ghana, for BYU fans, for LDS Church members and for the city of Detroit. He'll be someone that parents of little kids will say, 'I want you to be like that guy.' They'll see a great role model, a very good person."
Mendenhall watched Ansah spend hours doing interviews Thursday night with media outlets from around the country and around the world.
"He was exhausted by the time the night was over," Mendenhall said. "His was the compelling story of the night. Ziggy's exposure has really helped our program."
Ansah left New York Friday for Detroit to visit team headquarters and begin his NFL career.
"It was kind of sad for me to see him go," Mendenhall said. "It's a reality now that he's moving on."
There are plenty of people, namely Lions fans, who are skeptical of Ansah. After all, Ansah has only been playing football for three years and has only started nine games.
But Mendenhall has no doubts about Ziggy's abilities.
"The potential is unlimited. He's fast enough, he's quick enough, he's strong enough and a hard enough worker," he said. "He's consistent enough, both on and off the field. There's really no downside. He's made the fastest ascent that I've ever heard of, or seen, or even believed was possible, going from not having played the game to being a first-round draft pick. To me, there's zero reason why he can't do that from a first-round pick to whatever level they would like him to perform at in a very similar time frame, if not shorter."
Never recruited, Ziggy came into college football with zero fanfare and zero expectations. His emergence into the NFL is a different story as a first-round pick. Ansah said he's not worried.
"I've just got to ignore it," Ziggy said. "I know there's going to be pressure on me, no matter what I do. Without obstacles, you wouldn't have anything to say, 'I've got to jump over this.' I love the pressure."