Ziggy Ansah: Mormon Athlete

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Ziggy Ansah Mormon athlete

Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah was a football player (Linebacker) at Brigham Young University and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the "Mormon Church.". He is a native of Accra, Ghana. He is 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds.

Ziggy grew up unfamiliar with the game of American football. Huge enough to be on the front defensive line, he wasn't a starter until mid-way through his first season at BYU. "By the time BYU played Georgia Tech in Atlanta in late October, Ziggy had soared to the top of NFL draft boards." [1]

Ken Frei, a BYU student from Idaho Falls, baptized Ziggy while on a mission in Ghana.

Frei met Ziggy on a basketball court in Ghana. Their common love of basketball turned them into fast friends. The interesting thing is that Steve Young partnered with Engage Now Africa to build the sports court where Frei and Ziggy met. The school's headmaster, a Mormon, allowed the missionaries to play pick-up basketball games there. And Ziggy worked there as a teaching assistant. [2]

Frei encouraged him to attend BYU. Once there, Frei took him to his first BYU football game. Not too much later, Ziggy walked on. This is part of the story written up in Sports Illustrated magazine by writer Jeff Benedict. Kyle Van Noy, an experienced defensive player headed surely for the NFL, was assigned as Ziggy's roommate and mentor. Van Noy is one huge reason Ziggy progressed so quickly from a total innocent to a potential NFL first round draft.


Many eyes were on Ansah as the pro football draft approached. Professional football is a different game than college ball, and many college athletes see their star quality dim as they fail to adapt to new rigors of pro play. Ansah was such a raw talent that scouts looked at him as an unbroken wild horse. It would be a risk to draft him as such an inexperienced, but talented player.

On the very day he graduated from BYU, Ansah was drafted in the 5th pick by the Detroit Lions.

Ziggy's attitude, intelligence, physical ability and resilience allowed him to progress in short order to an elite player and projected first-round NFL draft pick. [3]

"I'm not sure that's ever happened in college football before," said BYU Coach Mendenhall.

Ansah graduated from BYU with a degree in actuarial science, with a minor in business.

Ansah was drafted early on by the Detroit Lions, a gamble for any team, because of Ziggy's novice stature and lack of experience. Still, most commentators felt the Lions would be a good fit for Ziggy. It appears that Ansah will be a starter in his very first pro game with the Lions. [4] He was listed as the team's starter at the position of left defensive end. Taken by Detroit with the No. 5 pick in 2013's NFL draft, Ansah was the lone rookie listed as a starter on the Lions' depth chart. "Ansah was listed in front of Israel Idonije on the depth chart. Idonije is a nine-year NFL veteran" but was nursing an injury.

Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, an eight-year pro, compared Ansah to a young Jevon Kearse. During his 11-year career with Philadelphia and Tennessee, Kearse amassed 74 sacks, including totals of 14.5, 11.5 and 10.0 sacks his first three seasons in the league.
"Ziggy is a freak," Tulloch told DetroitLions.com. "He's a raw player but very instinctive. He can read screens very well. Runs to the ball very well. He's just a real good athlete. He reminds me of a young Jevon Kearse when Jevon was back in Tennessee. (Kearse) could just fly around. You can tell (Ansah) needs some more work, but he's definitely a good pickup for us." [5]

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