Football no longer foreign to fast-rising BYU defensive end

Posted Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Football was foreign to Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah when he arrived in the States in the fall of 2008. He had received an academic scholarship to BYU after a U.S. missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints saw him playing a pickup basketball game at his high school in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.

He twice tried out for the Cougars’ basketball team, but twice was cut. He went out for track and ran personal bests of 10.91 seconds in the 100 and 21.89 in the 200.

Ansah’s size, though, screamed football player. He is 6-foot-5, 271 pounds. But Ansah knew nothing about the sport.

When he first started in 2010, Ansah had to be shown how to put on his equipment.

“It was frustrating in the beginning,” Ansah said. “I wasn’t treated like a starter, but I wasn’t treated like, ‘Ziggy hasn’t played football at all.’ It was like they were pushing me like I [had been] playing football for 25 years. It was crazy. But it’s been easier now.”

Ansah is one of several top foreign-born prospects in the class of 2013. Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner was born in Germany. Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson was born in England. SMU defensive end Margus Hunt was born in Estonia. Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams was born in Australia.

Ansah should be the highest of them, a lock as a top-10 pick despite his lack of experience. He had only nine career starts, all last season.

“He’s got as much upside as anybody in this draft,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.

Ansah has earned comparisons to Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul was a first-round pick in 2010, and he has 27.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in three seasons.

“I hate to compare players, but he is a long, tall, big athlete, probably a little bit raw, but you want to coach those kind of guys,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. “There are probably some similarities there.”

Ansah, who made 62 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season, showed how coachable he is in the Senior Bowl. He has a desire to be the best, which should take him a long way in the NFL.

“Regardless of the fact that everybody is telling me that I’m raw, I’m pretty good at what I’m doing,” Ansah said. “… I’m going to be dedicated and do everything I can just to be the best player. I want to be the best player at this position. Even with the little experience I have. That is the challenge that I have.”

Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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