The Seahawks have added a new defender to their roster this week. And KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick that Ezekiel Ansah has a pretty interesting backstory.
"Everybody calls him Ziggy,” Thiel said.
Ansah came from the West African country of Ghana, where he was involved in the Mormon church. “A coach over there said that he might be able to get an academic scholarship to Brigham Young University (BYU),” Thiel said.
And he did. Ansah played a lot of soccer as a youth, Thiel said, but came to the U.S. with no specific athletic plans.
“But he decided — being 6 feet, 6 inches tall — to try out for basketball," Thiel said.
Ansah switched sports after getting cut from the basketball team twice. He became a sprinter for the track team, running a 10.9-second 100-yard dash.
“That’s really fast for a young collegian,” Thiel said. “So he proved that he's got some real athletic talent. He came to the football team not even knowing how to put the pads on much less understand the rules of the game or any strategy.”
Ansah probably played a single snap as a sophomore, Thiel said. Then, a few as a junior. His senior year, he was a backup defensive end before the nose tackle got hurt.
“They put him in and he became a football terror,” Thiel said. “Very impressive in a short career. (The) next year, he was the number five player taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.”
RISK VS. REWARD
Ansah came from an impoverished family, and Thiel calls his progression remarkable.
"He was working as a janitor during his college career and really didn't have a whole lot of time to develop in sports,” he said. “But here he is suddenly a first-round pick.”
Ansah was a star in Detroit for six years, Thiel said; an injury last fall required surgery and put him out of commission.
“That's one of the reasons he was available to the Seahawks at a very cheap price,” Thiel said. “They signed him on a one-year deal as a free agent for $5.5 million. That's cheap in the NFL.”
Ansah will turn 30 by the end of the month, and Thiel says he “hasn’t seen the apex of his potential,” something the Seahawks are very excited about.
“They're willing to take the risk that he's not going to be available at the start of the season. He's still rehabbing from surgery,” Thiel said. “He'll miss all of training camp for sure and there are reports now that he may miss the first four weeks of the season. But that still leaves 12 games.”