Anyone who watched the Senior Bowl on Saturday heard Ezekiel Ansah’s name called more than any other player on the field. The defensive end from BYU was all over the field, getting pressure on the quarterback, and chasing down runners. “Ziggy”, as he’s known by some, has emerged as an NFL prospect despite only picking up the game of football in the past few years. In fact, Ansah couldn’t even imagine playing football just 5 years ago.
As told in an article by Jeff Benedict of SI.com, Ansah was “discovered” by a Mormon missionary from Brigham Young who was on a mission in Ghana. Ansah was a teaching assistant at the local K-12 school, and the BYU student, Ken Frei, invited him to play basketball. He knew that Ghanaians aren’t known for being great at basketball, as Ghana is most certainly a soccer country. Ansah instantly proved him wrong, and threw a ball off the glass and slammed it home for an alley-oop, emulating the NBA players he hoped to one day join on the court. Frei would convince Ansah to convert to Mormonism, and would also persuade him to attend Brigham Young. Ansah showed up on campus, and was in for a total culture shock. Everything in Utah was much different than Ghana, and Ziggy took some time to get acclimated.
Ansah strived to be an athlete, he tried out for the basketball and failed on two occasions. He also tried to walk on to the track team, and did not run well, posting a best that was well short of a national level runner. It would not be long before he heard the same advice from many of the people he met in Provo.
“You should try out for the football team.”
Ansah didn’t have a great first impression of the sport of football, as he felt it was to violent and crazy. He admitted to coach Bronco Mendenhall that he had no idea how to play the sport, or lift weights. However, his size and athleticism earned him a spot on the team. According to the SI.com story, Ansah was first put into a game as an “experiment,” and asked to play coverage on a kickoff. He failed to tackle the ball carrier, but absolutely destroyed multiple blockers as if they weren’t there. It was then that the BYU coaching staff began to realize they might have a special player on their hands.
Ansah would go on to be a defensive lineman and linebacker for the Cougars, but wouldn’t start a game until his senior season. He took full advantage of his year as a starter, and racked up 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and plenty more QB pressures. He might not be a true track athlete, but he certainly possesses a level of athleticism that’s rare for a defensive lineman. At 6’5, 274 lbs, he doesn’t sacrifice size for this speed, either. He is compared by CBSSports to Jason Pierre-Paul, and while he’s not quite as elite of a pass rusher as the former USF Bull, he is a better run defender. His main weakness is his lack of football IQ, as he’s still learning the game having only picked it up 2 years ago. Ansah has an uber-high ceiling, and doesn’t have the same wear and tear that more experienced defensive ends may have.
Ansah is shooting up draft boards, and is likely now a borderline first round pick. The Buccaneers likely won’t be drafting at the time he’s likely to come off the board unless a trade is made, but don’t be surprised if this is a player the Buccaneers pursue. From all accounts, he is a high character young man with a high motor and a ton of potential. So, what do you think? Would you like to see the Buccaneers take a pass rusher like Ansah early in the 2013 draft? Let us know in the comments below!
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