More than a year ago, former BYU defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah heard his name called fifth in the 2013 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
After a fairly successful season, Ansah said Monday at Cougar football media day that it still hits him once in awhile.
"Sometimes I look at myself during practice and I’m holding the Lions helmet," Ansah said. "I’m an NFL player. It just keeps striking me. When Kyle (Van Noy) came in to OTAs, I was like, who would’ve thought Kyle would’ve been here with me playing on the same defense. I’m just enjoying the moment and taking it all in."
Van Noy was also selected by the Lions, meaning Ansah is enjoying having a familiar face in Detroit.
"It’s nice to know you have someone you went to college with joining you, playing in the pros," Ansah said. "It’s just been great for me. We are looking forward to the season to do great things."
Van Noy has joked before about how much he helped Ansah have success, something Ansah made a point of denying.
"I know he said he taught me how to play football but it’s not true," Ansah said. "He definitely was influential. He was around my place and we just talked a little bit. I told him that this was going to be his longest year too. The one thing he has to do is really take care of his body, get in the cold tub, get your massages just right. He’s a smart player who does everything good, so I’m sure he’ll be all right."
Ansah explained that the year between finishing his college career in Provo and completing his rookie campaign in the NFL proved to be quite a grind.
"Coming right out of college, you have to do the combine, you have to do the draft, you have all these workouts and all this traveling," he said. "There wasn’t really like a break to just relax. Speaking about the game, I think I had a pretty good year. I’m just looking to do better this year."
Ansah said the physical strain proved to be the most difficult.
"I think the hardest part was just trying to stay healthy to play through all 16-plus games," he said. "That was something I learned. I’m going to try and take care of my body better to be able to play all 16-plus games this year."
When asked if it was harder to stay healthy than it was to deal with the media, Ansah just laughed and said he always "sneaks out" of the media events, just like he liked to do at BYU.
Off the field, Ansah said that the pro football lifestyle hasn't really impacted him much.
"It depends on how you want to make it," he said. "I don’t really do much. I go to practice, come home, relax, sleep, play some FIFA. If you want to go crazy, you can go crazy. If you want to just relax and chill, you can. It obviously is different from college, where you have to do homework and go to class. In the NFL, it’s a business. It’s your job. You work 24-7 learning new plays, watching film."
He said that's probably one of the most significant changes from when he played at the collegiate level.
"In the pros, you have to do whatever you can to be in the game," he said. "You don’t want anyone taking your job. In college, you want obviously want to start but it’s different. It is your job (in the NFL) and just like any other job you don’t want to get fired or have anyone else take your position. If it is the extra two hours that you have to stay in the weight room or the extra hour that you have to watch film after everyone is done, you have to put in the work."
For "Ziggy" however, there has been one constant that has driven him, one he hopes to keep utilizing.
"I had a couple of people telling me that I’d only been playing for two or three years and that I wasn’t going to make it that easily, blah, blah, blah," Ansah said. "One thing that really drives me is when someone doubts me. It doesn’t put me do at all. When someone doubts you, it gives you that little edge to do the extra work."
As he heads into his second year, Ansah said he's just going to keep enjoying the ride and improving.
"I just try to be better every single day, be it in practice or in the games," the Lions defensive lineman said. "I still keep learning the game, learn from the guys who have been in this game for awhile and emulate whatever skill that they’ve got. I just hope to get better."