Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall of Fame Lions running back Barry Sanders. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
NEW YORK CITY – BYU defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah was selected by the Detroit Lions with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-5, 271-pound defensive end becomes the highest pick on the defensive side of the ball for the Cougars and ties the 1982 Chicago Bears selection of former quarterback Jim McMahon as the highest BYU pick in school history.
"I’m just happy I’ve come this far. This journey has just begun," Ansah said. "I’m excited—I give credit to everybody. I give credit to Bronco Mendenhall for pushing me during practice and teaching me how to be a football player. I give credit to my fans back at BYU and to my teammates."
A native of Ghana, Ansah is BYU’s ninth player to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Other NFL first round picks include quarterback Jim McMahon (1982, 5th overall), defensive tackle Shawn Knight (1987, 11th overall), offensive lineman John Tait (1999, 14th overall), quarterback Marc Wilson (1980, 15th overall), defensive end Jason Buck (1987, 17th overall), linebacker Todd Shell (1984, 24th overall), offensive lineman Trevor Matich (1985, 28th overall) and linebacker Rob Morris (2000, 28th overall). BYU also had quarterback Steve Young taken with the first overall pick of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of the USFL and CFL along with tight end Gordon Hudson going in the first round with the 22nd overall pick.
A player with a well-documented unique journey to football beginning three years ago, Ansah is Mendenhall's highest draft pick since becoming the head coach at BYU and eighth player drafted.
"It was a real honor for me to be part of this experience for Ziggy at the draft and over the past three years," Mendenhall said. "To go from not playing football to a top-5 pick in three years is a tribute to Ziggy and his willingness to work hard and also to our program."
Detroit has drafted 10 Cougars previously, most recently Luke Staley in the seventh round of 2002.
Ansah was the 21st defensive lineman from BYU selected in the NFL Draft since 1972 and first since Super Bowl winner Shaun Nua was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005 in the fifth round. BYU has had two other defensive linemen taken in the first round, Shawn Knight and Jason Buck.
After first putting on pads in 2010, Ansah played three seasons for the Cougars, appearing in 31 games, starting the final nine of his senior year. Despite having little experience, Ansah made a huge impact for BYU’s No. 3 ranked defense in 2012 that allowed just 266.1 yards per game and just 14 points per game.
"Ziggy is a phenomenal person, and I think the Detroit fans will love him," Mendenhall said. "They will see a very unique personality. He is a very kind, gentle and obedient person off the field, but when he plays he is ferocious and plays very, very hard."
A physical specimen with a unique combination of size and speed, Ansah totaled 62 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, nine pass breakups, six quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one interception during his senior year.
Ansah was named a Pro Football Weekly All-America honorable mention and was selected to the Phil Steele and FBS All-Independent teams.
More from Ansah's draft experience