ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Ziggy Ansah was born and raised in Ghana, playing soccer and shooting hoops without ever seeing a snap of football.
When he moved to the United States in 2008, some missionaries suggested he attend Brigham Young and try out for the basketball team. He fell short there, but was willing to listen again when friends persuaded him to play football for the first time in 2010.
It has paid off and then some: On Thursday night, the Detroit Lions made him the No. 5 overall draft pick.
“It’s been a humbling experience,” Ansah said with a thick accent on a conference call with Detroit-area reporters. “A crazy journey.”
What if someone told him a few years ago he would end up being drafted fifth overall in 2013?
“I would be like, ‘I don't know what you’re thinking,’ ” Ansah said.
If Ansah doesn’t play up to his potential, some people may be saying the same thing about the gamble the Lions took with an inexperienced player.
Detroit desperately needed an offensive tackle, but three were drafted within the first four picks. The franchise’s decision-makers knew they also had a glaring void at defensive end. Instead of trading down to acquire additional picks, the Lions stuck with their slot and took a player they evaluated up close for a week at the Senior Bowl.
“He’s the best player available,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. “And, he fills a need. This was an opportunity where the grade matched up with the need and it worked out great for us.”
Detroit didn’t re-sign defensive end Cliff Avril, who joined Seattle in free agency, and cut its other starting defensive end, Kyle Vanden Bosch, from last year’s 4-12 team.
The Lions’ poor season put them in a position to coach a team at the Senior Bowl and they took advantage.