It’s been about a month since the Broncos hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. That’s right—Peyton Manning got another ring despite being one pick away from leading the league in interceptions while only playing in ten games. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but the last few Super Bowls have proven correct an age old adage: defense wins championships.
So far we’ve identified that the Lions have a true lockdown corner on the roster. Now, we can take a look at a guy who is a Pro Bowler at his position after only playing football for roughly five years.
Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah
Ziggy’s the type of guy that reminds me that I should try harder in my day to day life. I probably won’t, but his story and effort inspire the thought. I’m sure you know the gist. He grew up in Ghana, where his school and academic record got him into BYU. At BYU, he was cut from the basketball team decided to try his hand (feet?) at track— and this is where it gets interesting. Ziggy’s athleticism turned enough heads for him to be lured into giving football a go. You know, a sport he had no idea how to play.
Fast forward five years. Last season, he finished the year behind only J.J. Watt and Kahlil Mack in sacks. The Lions took him fifth overall after another disappointing season in 2012 knowing he was a project and it’s paid huge dividends. He’s a top five talent in all of the stats and metrics that matter. That in itself is exciting. And even better? Coaches and players have mentioned a bevy of times that Ziggy’s nowhere near his ceiling.
Despite a very promising 2014, there were a couple questions on how well Ansah would cope with the departure of Suh. Would he be able to get to the QB without Suh creating pressure up the middle? Has he already maxed out his potential? All was answered within the 4 weeks of the regular season after a month of watching him chase down opposing QBs. It’s worth noting that he was wrecking shop with much less help on the inside than he’s had in his first couple of years.
There are two plays from the 2015 that really show you how Ansah is. In the second meeting with the Vikings, Adrian Peterson was on his way to scoring a 70 plus yard touchdown after burning most of Detroit’s defense. Ziggy came from the OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE LINE and managed to chase down ADRIAN PETERSON before he could get in the end zone. It was jaw dropping to watch all 6’5” of him run 75 yards and take down one of the hardest hitting backs in the game. Did I mention he was turning heads while competing in track? I did? It was worth mentioning again. Look ahead one month to Turkey Day. While Stafford and Megatron were making the Eagles defense look silly, Ziggy was busy scaring the hell out of Mark Sanchez. His performance all day was stellar but most people may have missed the true magic of his fumble recovery. He beats his man, knocks the ball loose, sees it on the turf and then HURDLES Matt Tobin to recover the ball, all in a matter of six seconds.
If you were wondering what took so long to get to such an important piece of the Lions future, it’s just that I wanted to save the best for last. As much as Riddick and Slay bring to the team, there’s no denying that Ansah deserves top honors for accomplishing so much in so little time. The best part is that he’s only going to get better. I’m not sure what I’m more excited for, Ziggy—snagging the next few DPOY Awards or just watching Teddy and Aaron flee in terror two times a year.