Steve Young helped steer Lions' Ansah to football

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

San Francisco — Without Steve Young, Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah might have never played football.

Through a missionary working in Ghana, Young’s charity — the Forever Young Foundation — installed a sport court in Ansah’s hometown of Accra in 2007.

From there, people started to see the 6-foot-5 Ansah’s tremendous athletic ability.

“In that sport court, they would have pickup games and this skinny little kid, 6-5 kid, would come over and play basketball, Ziggy Ansah,” Young said

Thursday during a Super Bowl media event with ESPN analysts. “And they said, ‘Ziggy, you should play basketball. You could go to the U.S.’ And he ended up at BYU.”

Ansah went to BYU on an academic scholarship in 2008, but failed to make the basketball team. Instead, he joined the track team in 2009.

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Then, in 2010, he tried out for the football team despite having never played, but at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, he certainly looked the part. During his three years, Ansah continually played more until he finally became a starter as a senior, finishing with 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

“Then he goes to the combine, just rips it up,” Young said.

And then the Lions drafted him fifth overall in 2013.

“It’s just a fun story for me to think about that full circle,” Young said.

Now, after three years in Detroit, Ansah is one of the top pass rushers in the NFL, ranking third in 2015 with 14.5 sacks. And Young is glad to see him “thriving.”

“It’s amazing because I was nervous,” Young said. “He hadn’t hardly played. Here’s a kid that has no one in-country to help him, and the NFL chews people up all the time.”