Every April, a national college football magazine asks my advice about rising stars from BYU and Utah, newcomers or returning players who may make a bigger contribution in the coming season.
That’s the story of how I discovered Ziggy Ansah.
OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I am claiming to have made the best “Rising Star” pick in the history of Athlon or any other preseason publication. My guy became the No. 5 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, by the Detroit Lions.
Ansah had made a total of seven tackles as a junior, but BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall offered just enough suggestions during spring practice last year about his potentially increased role to justify my selection. As we know, Ansah became a starter only after defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna was injured in the fourth game of the season at Boise State.
In truth, I’m also guilty of overlooking Ziggy in covering about half of BYU’s games in 2012. My excuses: BYU’s defense was so dominant as a group in some games and players such as linebacker Kyle Van Noy made so many spectacular plays that it was natural just to lump Ziggy into the overall performance. But I certainly should have made more notice of his performance at Georgia Tech, with eight tackles and a sack as the Cougars held Tech’s option attack to 117 rushing yards.
Think about this: Ansah was drafted higher by the NFL than Jimmer Fredette by the NBA. An archive search adds to my embarrassment, revealing that I made about 10 times as many references to Jimmer as Ziggy during their BYU careers.
As for following Ansah’s pro career, ambitious BYU fans will have a chance to catch him this season. The weekend of Nov. 9-10, the Cougars play at Wisconsin and the Lions visit Chicago. Madison and Chicago are about 150 miles apart.
BYU also travels to Michigan in September 2015.
As for my rising stars of 2013, we’ll see how BYU tight end Brett Thompson and Utah cornerback Justin Thomas compare to Ansah.
• Defensive lineman Star Lotulelei, from Bingham, gained a distinction as the highest-drafted player ever to come from both a Utah high school and the University of Utah. Drafted No. 14 by Carolina, Lotulelei topped receiver Kevin Dyson of Clearfield, who went to Tennessee as the No. 16 pick in 1998. Star’s the sixth former Utah prep player to go in the first round.