Lions' Ansah visits champion Detroit King football team

Charles E. Ramirez

Detroit — Detroit Lions’ defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah served up some inspiration and pizza Tuesday to the Martin Luther King High School football team.

The pro football player told the high school students that you have to persevere through adversity.

“You have to keep moving forward,” he said. “No matter what you’re going through in life, keep hope alive.”

Ansah teamed up with Madison Heights-based Hungry Howie’s Pizza Inc. to surprise the MLK High School’s football team with a visit and lunch Tuesday.


Ansah said he decided to visit the school after receiving a letter from one of the players on its football team, the Crusaders.

Ambry Thomas wrote the letter to Ansah to tell him about the obstacle the high school team had to overcome this year.

Last month, the Crusaders beat Walled Lake Western 18-0 in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 2 state championship.

But before the season started, the team’s outlook was bleak. Longtime coach Dale Harvel died from an apparent heart attack during a practice in July before he could start his 31st season with the team.

The year prior, the team was 14-0 for the season and won the division’s state championship.

“I thought we needed some recognition for all of the stuff we accomplished,” said Thomas, a senior, the No. 2 player in the state who has committed to the University of Michigan.

“His visit was amazing,” he said. “I didn’t expect it. I’m enjoying myself.”

After the two met, Ansah gave Thomas a Lokai bracelet of red beads from his own wrist. The bracelet also had one black bead and one white one. Ansah explained the black bead carries mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, and the white one carries water from Mount Everest. The bracelet is intended to help its wearer find balance through life’s highs and lows, he said.

“I’m really honored to come and stand in front of you guys as back-to-back state champions,” Ansah told MLK High’s football squad. “I want to congratulate you guys, on behalf of the Lions. Thank you for having me here.”

Ansah, a defensive end for the Detroit Lions, was drafted by the team in the first round of the NFL’s 2013 Draft.

A native of Accra, Ghana, Africa, Ansah came to the United States hoping to play basketball. His family and friends convinced him to try out for football while a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in 2010.

Brian Beard, marketing coordinator for Hungry Howie’s Pizza, said the company joined Ansah in the visit Tuesday, providing more pizza to more than 1,200 students at the school, to give back to its community.

“We wanted to do something for a school that’s had overcome a lot of adversity this year,” he said “That’s what this is all about. Martin Luther King High School’s football team has gone far beyond what a team is expected to do.”

Barry Cannon, King High School’s athletic director, called Ansah’s visit with the football squad “outstanding.”

“And he’s an outstanding citizen, too,” he said. “We’re glad he selected King, especially for our kids. Our Lions are winning now and that’s a good thing. We’re happy.”