LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah was in Honolulu Blue and silver and on the field for the first time.
The Detroit Lions, though, knew they were going to like what they saw from Ansah because they spent a week with him at the Senior Bowl in January.
“This is not the first practice we’ve had with Ziggy Ansah,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “We had the whole week of practice and the whole game day at the Senior Bowl so, it wasn’t our first look at him.
“We knew what to expect from him athletically. … you can tell that everything’s new to him, but he picks things up quickly.”
Ansah grew up in Ghana and played soccer, basketball and ran track before putting on football pads for the first time in 2010 at BYU.
Three years later, Detroit drafted him with the No. 5 pick overall.
“It’s an exciting time for me,” Ansah said Friday after signing a five-year contract. “I did the contract. That was over with, so all I had to do was focus on the practice.”
As a high pick for a team hoping to bounce back from a 4-12 season, much of the focus will be on Ansah. While playing alongside Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on Detroit’s defensive line, he is going to try to block out the pressure to produce and prove he should’ve been drafted where he was by the Lions.
“I talked to a few people about that, if I think about that, I am going to make mistakes on the field,” he said
Ansah did acknowledge having a moment in which it hit him that he truly has become an NFL player, making a remarkable leap to the league, when he was in the Lions’ locker room.
“For a split second, it was a sigh of relief,” he said. “It was like taking a deep breath, letting it all out and it was time to work.”
As much as it helped Detroit’s decision to draft Ansah because they saw him practice and play at the Senior Bowl, it assisted him in his first practice-like situation with the Lions because of what he went through in Mobile, Ala.
“It was really helpful,” he said. “It was pretty much the same thing we were doing.”
Detroit signed all of its draft picks before taking the field for minicamp, but second-round pick Darius Slay was unable to do anything other than sit in on meetings and do upper-body work in the weight room. The former Mississippi State cornerback had surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
What is Slay missing by sitting out when the rest of the rookies are going through practice-like drills in helmets, jerseys, shorts and cleats?
“Hardly anything, other than getting a good look at him,” Schwartz said. “He’s one of the few guys we didn’t coach in the Senior Bowl, but if he’s going to miss a couple weeks, it’s probably better for it to be right now. … We took that approach to his knee knowing that if something had to get done, let’s go sooner rather than later with it.”
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