Maybe it's a bit of a stretch to call BYU defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah a once-in-a-lifetime player.
But maybe not.
The 6-foot-5, 271-pound Ghanaian averages 4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a rare combination of size and speed. Because of his freakish athleticism, he could be the second overall pick in the draft, even though he's only started nine football games in his life.
"He's enjoyed as meteoric (of a) rise up the board as any other player in my 35 years covering the draft," said Mel Kiper Jr. "I would say (he goes) two to Jacksonville or five to Detroit; at worst eight to Buffalo. (That's) amazing considering he was off the radar -- completely undrafted -- when the season began.
Ansah came to BYU on an academic scholarship after converting to Mormonism. He tried out for the basketball team twice and was cut twice, dabbled at track and then decided to try football in 2010 with a nudge from the track coach.
In his first two seasons, while learning a game he had never seen before enrolling at BYU in 2008, he had a total of 10 tackles. He began last season as a situational pass rusher but burst on the scene with 13 tackles for loss, 4½ sacks and 9 batted down passes.
"Now (he's) all the way up, clearly in the top 10," Kiper said, "maybe even the top five."
Ansah has been peaking at the right time. He was named most outstanding player at the Senior Bowl with 3½ tackles for loss, 1½ sacks and a forced fumble. He ran a 4.56 40 at the NFL Combine, had a 34½-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-10 broad jump, 4.26-second 20-yard shuttle and 7.11-second three-cone drill, numbers that look more like a wide receiver's than a defensive lineman.
The 23-year-old is "dripping with upside," according to draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki in Pro Football Weekly's 2013 Draft Preview, who added that Ansah has "eye-popping closing speed."
Ansah is still extremely raw in his technique, and he knows very little about the history of the game, but he's trying to learn.
"I try to stay up late and watch NFL Network," he said. "I see some things. I have no idea who the (players) are. But this is going to be my life, so I just try to suck it all in."
And he tries his best to explain the game to his family back home in Accra, the capital of the West African nation. His father, Edward, is a retired salesman for Shell Oil; his mother, Betty, is a nurse; and he has two older brothers and sisters.
He's seen his mother just once since he left for BYU, but there will be a family reunion in New York on Draft Day, when the world will again change drastically for the about-to-be-rich Ansah, who did custodial work around the BYU campus before earning a football scholarship in his final season. The world he left behind and his current world had similarities and differences.
"It's the same education system," he said. "Go from kindergarten through grade 12. It's pretty much the same (there) as here, except it's all Africans, black folks; and it's all white people in Utah."
Ansah has learned enough about the game to recognize the not-so-subtle tactics of offensive linemen.
Asked to name the toughest opponent he played against, he said: "I give it to the Oregon State right tackle because I got held a lot in that game and it was never called, so he did a good job."
If his meteoric ascension continues, Ansah will get a lot more of that in the NFL.
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