Kaufusi now turns to ex-BYU teammate Ansah for advice

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Ezekial Ansah (47) celebrates with Branson Kaufusi (90) after making an interception while playing for BYU in 2012.

Bronson Kaufusi met Ziggy Ansah in 2010 before heading to New Zealand for a mission trip.

At the time, Ansah was just starting to learn about football at BYU. Kaufusi’s father, BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, introduced the two players, and Bronson Kaufusi could tell Ansah didn’t know much about the game.

“I think he’s like, ‘Oh, this looks like a fun game,’” he said, recalling the inexperienced Ansah’s reaction.

Of course, when Kaufusi returned from New Zealand for his freshman season in 2012, everything had changed with Ansah.

“He was just totally different,” Kaufusi said. “He was huge, and he had a good understanding of the game.”

Now, Kaufusi is the one looking to Ansah for advice as he prepares for his shot in the NFL.

The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Kaufusi was at the combine last week trying to impress NFL scouts. Although he’s not as fast as Ansah, he finished in the top five in three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, which shows he has plenty of athleticism for his size.

CBS projects Kaufusi as a second- or third-round pick, and he’s someone who could draw some attention from the Lions. Jason Jones has been the big, run-stuffing defensive end the past few years, but if the Lions don’t re-sign him in free agency, they could address the position in the draft.

Like Ansah and Lions linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a second-round pick in 2014, Kaufusi enters the NFL draft with impressive all-around statistics. As a senior, he had 64 tackles, 20 for loss, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, four blocked kicks and one interception.

Bronson Kaufusi runs a drill at the NFL combine on Tuesday.

Even though he was the son of a coach, Kaufusi said he didn’t start playing until eighth grade, but that gave him significantly more experience than Ansah, who hadn’t played football growing up in Ghana. Kaufusi said he thinks his ability to learn an NFL playbook will help him adjust quickly.

Despite having just a few years of football experience, Ansah has made a smooth transition to the NFL with 30 sacks the last three years.

But, before Ansah became a star, he first had to stay ahead of Kaufusi on the depth chart. When Ansah was a senior in 2012 and Kaufusi was a freshman, starting defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game. Ansah became the starter and impressed enough to be the No. 5 overall pick, showing significant improvement from when Kaufusi first met him in 2010.

“It was fun to see him progress and even now really playing well,” Kaufusi said.

But even with Ansah starting, Kaufusi earned more playing time as a freshman, and he’s shown improvement ever since. Now, he’ll try to show he can make it like Ansah in the NFL.

“I feel like I can make a difference right away,” he said.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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