East Rutherford, N.J. — Ezekiel Ansah has made a home in Detroit, while making a name for himself as a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Lions.
But for the native of Accra, Ghana, his annual trip back to Africa this past offseason took on added meaning as he launched his own charitable foundation in March. The Ezekiel Ansah Foundation partnered with the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, where Ansah’s mother, Elizabeth Cole, was a nurse for more than 30 years, and also held the country’s first football camp at the Presbyterian Boys' Senior Secondary School he attended as a teenager.
An ESPN film crew made the trip for that inaugural camp in July, and a short documentary will be part of the network’s pregame show for tonight’s Lions-Giants broadcast at MetLife Stadium. (Mobile users can see the video here.)
“One thing that I’ve learned growing up was never to forget my roots,” Ansah told ESPN.
American football is still a foreign game to Ghanaian youth, but for Ansah, the 28-year-old beginning his fifth NFL season, the camp is about more than teaching the kids the rules.
"Coming here to America to study and to be educated, I never grew up going to a football camp or a soccer camp or looking up to somebody who put on something like that for the kids to follow," Ansah explained this spring. "But here in America there’s always football camps or there’s soccer camps, and these kids go, starting at a young age, and I’m just trying to do the same for my people."
And as he tells ESPN, “One thing I always tell myself is that I can’t save the whole world, but if I am able to change the life of one kid — just one — I will be happy.”