Ansah's Pro Bowl selection matches on-field performance
Allen Park — Ziggy Ansah was just learning how to play football five years ago.
Now, he's being recognized as one of the top players in the NFL as he made the Pro Bowl for the first time.
"I'm still overwhelmed," Ansah said Wednesday. "I'm still trying to soak it in, but I've got to try to stay focused … on the game we have Sunday."
In his third NFL season, Ansah is tied for second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks and tied for first with four forced fumbles.
"There is not any phase that he hasn't improved upon," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "His get-off is better, his speed-to-power move is better, his ability to operate outside and inside is better. And he works that way, the way he practices and the way he prepares. He's got the kind of work habits that it takes to be an outstanding player in this league."
Although he ranked fifth in fan voting among defensive ends, Ansah needed some support from players and coaches to make the list of six players in the Pro Bowl. Being recognized by his peers and coaches was a "great honor" and making the all-star game is "very special" for Ansah.
A native of Ghana, Ansah has actually already been to Hawaii, playing there with BYU in 2011.
"This time I'm going for a better purpose," he said.
Ansah said he's excited to participate in the game, but it's unclear if his teammate Calvin Johnson will join him on the field. Johnson made the Pro Bowl for the sixth-straight season, but hasn't played since 2011.
"We'll see how I'm feeling around then," Johnson said when asked if he'll play.
Unlike Ansah, Johnson wasn't in the top 10 voting among fans, so he needed significant support from coaches and players to make the group of eight receivers.
The announcement that Ansah was dealing with an illness in Monday's game was a surprise, and although he's not certain, he suspects food poisoning might've led to his ailment.
"Something wasn't right in my system," he said.
Ansah missed most of the second quarter and spent some of that time on the bench, hunched over with a towel on his head. He said he didn't start to feel sick until warm-ups.
"I think I was just battling something, some illness and I think I was using a lot of energy to fight back," he said. "I was just fatigued."