In America, they love football. Except, what they call football looks nothing like the game played in Ghana. The ball is egg shaped, and picking it up is not considered a foul. Of course, their version is American football, a game that they developed in the early 20th century.
American football is their biggest sport, with the final game of the year, the Super Bowl, attracting around 100 million TV viewers. There is a large sports betting market for American football in the US, covering both the NFL and college games with many fans using picks and parlays from sites like Oddschecker to help them.
You’d struggle to find an American football game being played in Ghana, just like in most of Africa. It has no history in the country, so it doesn’t have the same following as it does back in the United States.
It’s no surprise then that there have been very few American football players from Ghana. In fact, there have been only three in total. The first was Phil Yeboah-Kodie, who played one season in 1996 for the Denver Broncos, although he only appeared in two games.
The second was Ebenezer Ekuban, who played for the Dallas Cowboys between 1999 and 2008, after being picked first in the 1999 NFL Draft. He appeared in a total of 122 games, making a total of 281 tackles in that time. The third is Ezekiel Ansah, the only player to still be in the NFL today. He was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
Ansah is originally from Accra, before moving to the US for college in the hopes of getting a professional basketball career. He was accepted into Brigham Young University, a private college in the United States, where he received a scholarship thanks to a strong academic record.
However, his dreams of a basketball career didn’t work out for him, and he was cut from the team twice. A member of the coaching staff persuaded Ansah to try out for the college’s football team, the BYU Cougars. He was accepted, and played for them for three years.
Learning the Rules
Since Ansah had always wanted to be a basketball player, he had paid no attention to American football. This meant he didn’t even have basic knowledge of the rules and mechanics of the game. This meant that he had to spend a lot of time learning and being coached on these basics before he could begin playing in games.
He still made six appearances in his sophomore season, just weeks after picking up an American football for the first time. During this time he managed to make three tackles. The following season, he played in 12 games, but mostly appearing on third downs, making a total of seven tackles.
Senior Season and Draft
The senior season is where Ansah got the opportunity to step up. He replaced another player who had been injured, and managed to make a total of 62 tackles, 48 of which came in the final 9 games. It was this performance that got him noticed. Taking him from an unnoticed player, to a first round NFL Draft pick. He was selected by the Detroit Lions as fifth overall pick, where he signed a four year contract worth $18.59 million.
Ansah played for the Lions from 2013 through to 2019, earning his first appearance in September 2013 when he replaced the injured Jason Jones. He worked his way up to become starting defensive end for the Lions, playing a crucial role for the team.
His contract was extended for the 2017 season, earning him an additional $7.53 million. The Lions then placed a franchise tag on Ansah, meaning he stayed with them for one more season, earning him $17.5 million.
He missed several games in 2018 due to a shoulder injury, and was put on injury reserve in December that year. He left the Lions at the end of that season, signing a one year contract with the Seattle Seahawks worth $9 million. He is now a free agent, looking for a team for next season, with rumours that the New York Giants may be interested.
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