Ziggy Ansah says lack of playing experience shouldn't be a concern

Posted Apr 25, 2013

Ansah says his transition into the NFL, and the Lions' defense, shouldn't be too difficult after spending a week in their system at the Senior Bowl

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah
What if you had have told Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah back in April of 2010 that in just three years he would be the No. 5 pick in the NFL Draft?

"I would have been like, 'I don't know what you're thinking, man,'" the new Lions defensive end said in a conference call Thursday night. "I've worked hard toward this and I actually earned it.

"It's been a humbling experience and a crazy journey."

Ansah's story is one of the best in the draft. He came to the United States from Ghana in 2008 on an academic scholarship to BYU. He failed to make the BYU basketball team a couple different times, so instead, walked on to the track team.

He ran a 10.91 in the 100-meter dash and 21.89 seconds in the 200 meters. That's impressive for a man who stands 6-foot-5, 275-pounds.

That athleticism also shines through on the football field, but his lack of playing experience is the one concern surrounding his game.

"I do see him as an impactful player right away," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of Ansah. "Sacks come when they come ... but he's going to be a guy that will play a big role for us on defense."

Ansah, who turns 24 next month, said his transition into the NFL -- and the Lions defense -- will be easier given the fact that he spent a week in their system at the Senior Bowl.

"It will be a lot easier. I'm really comfortable with them," he said. "I know how our coach is so, you know, just like giving me that chance is going to make it a lot easier.

"It does not matter to me what I play. Coming out of BYU, I played numerous positions, pretty much the whole defensive line. But with the Detroit Lions, (if we go Wide 9) against the quarterbacks, which I did during the Senior Bowl, then I'm happy to do that."

As for his lack of experience, Ansah, who's a statistics major at BYU, says he's not worried about it.

"It's a production-based sport," he said. "It doesn't matter the experience that I got. All I know is I've just got to produce and work on my technique and I know that the Detroit Lions are willing to work with me.

"I will probably start on their defensive line, you know, put me out there on the wide (9). I'm not going to make any promises. All I have to do is work hard and see what happens."

His transition could certainly be made easier if defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are as dominant inside as the Lions hope they'll be. Ansah said he couldn't wait to get alongside those two on the front four.

"Those guys are resilient," he said. "They are hard-working and the defensive coach talked to me a lot about them when we were at the Senior Bowl. I'm just happy to be lined up next to them."

The Lions are hoping that trio -- along with new free agent acquisition Jason Jones -- can turn the Lions defensive front into a dominant threat once again.

Ansah, Jones, Suh and Fairley are certainly bigger and stronger than the makeup of that line over the last few years. It seems to be a more athletic unit as well.

The Lions had only 34 sacks in 2012 and ranked 14th against the pass and 16th vs. the run.