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Ghanaian shines in NFL

By Julia Beffon | 2013-04-29 07:02:24.0

EXCEPTIONAL! That's how Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah can be described.

He might play the guitar and he might even play it with his left hand but the Detroit Lions do not care as long as he plays defence just as well.

The 23-year-old Ansah was one of the big surprises of American football's NFL draft this week when he was picked fifth overall.

"It's been a crazy journey," he said - and that sounds like an understatement.

Ansah was spotted by a second-year Mormon student on a mission in Ghana back in 2007.

The student thought the 2m youngster had the potential to be a basketball star, and persuaded his Brigham Young University - named after one of the founders of the Mormon faith - to recruit him.

Basketball in Utah did not work out so well for Ansah, who studied business, but he walked into the BYU's athletics team and then - just over two years ago - was persuaded to try his luck on gridiron.

He proved to be a natural, making a couple of appearances from the bench in 2011 and just nine full games last year.

That is the total amount of his experience, but he so impressed the scouts at the NFL that his name shot up the draft boards.

He even earned a spread in Sports Illustrated, pictured draped in a Ghana flag.

One scout told the magazine: "The combination of his height, weight and speed is probably unmatched. Plus, he is so strong."

Among the other top picks - bulky young men squeezed in suits - Ansah was coolness personified as he accepted his Detroit jersey wearing 3D glasses (minus the lenses). With a defence as porous as their attack is intimidating, the Lions certainly need a bit of Ansah stardust.