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Provo • BYU senior defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and his rags-to-probable-riches story is a "breath of fresh air," his agent proclaimed Thursday as the Cougars held their annual Pro Day for 32 scouts from 24 NFL teams, and one CFL team, but there were moments when the probable first-round draft pick just wanted to stop and catch his own breath.
"I may or may not" have tired out, Ansah replied when asked if one particularly grueling drill orchestrated by Oakland Raiders defensive line coach Terrell Williams caused him to run out of gas. "But I was able to finish all the drills, so that was good."
Actually, Ansah only participated in the untimed, unmeasured defensive line-specific drills at the end of the three-hour series of workouts. The former BYU track athlete who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 274 pounds did not run the 40-yard dash as many hoped he would, after posting a time of 4.63 seconds at the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis.
"I didn't think there was anything I could do to impress anybody out here," Ansah said with a chuckle. "I know I am fast, so ..."
Nearly a dozen BYU seniors worked out for scouts Thursday, but Ansah got the lion's share of the attention. And rightfully so, with many draft experts saying he could be a top-15 pick.
"That's a safe bet," said his agent, Frank Bauer of Sun West Sports, based in Stockton, Calif.
"There are strong opinions on him, but everybody agrees he is one of the better athletes in the country," he added.
The agent said that after his combine performance, Ansah really didn't have to do anything Thursday, but wanted to be out there with his teammates and show his willingness to be coached.
BYU fans know "what's going on" with Ansah by heart how he didn't play football until just three years ago, had to be shown how to put on his pads the first day of fall camp, and didn't even know until a few months ago what the letters NFC and AFC stood for, in relation to the NFL.
Now he's the main attraction of Pro Day.
"It's been a crazy journey," Ansah said. "I just thank Heavenly Father for it."
Privately, several scouts expressed surprise that Ansah agreed to do the individual workout with Williams, and some even thought it was a bit over the top. Rick Reiprish, director of college scouting for the New Orleans Saints, wasn't one of those disgusted by the tactics, but did acknowledge that Ansah "looked like" he ran out of gas.
"I don't know that the workout was a killer workout, but it was harder than you would think for this time of year," Reiprish said. "But like I said earlier, I think conditioning right now is a little overplayed."
Ansah said he knew what the Raiders representative was going to do beforehand, and wasn't surprised by it. He said they were heading out to lunch together after Pro Day to discuss his performance. The Raiders have the third overall pick in the draft.
How BYU's other seniors did was not immediately released, and strength coach Jay Omer said they probably wouldn't be because scouts generally don't like them published.
Brandon Ogletree, a 235-pound linebacker, said he was happy with his performance in the 40-yard dash, a 4.61, but BYU's leading tackler the past two seasons was mildly disappointed in his bench-press reps, 23.
"Overall, I think I turned a lot of heads today," Ogletree said. "My favorite [NFL] team is whatever team gives me a chance."
The BYU player besides Ansah most likely to be drafted, offensive lineman Braden Brown, said he was more nervous performing in front of friends, family and teammates than he was at the combine last month.
"All things considered, I did well today," Brown said.
BYU's participants in Pro Day
Player Pos. Ht/Wt
Ezekiel Ansah DL 6-5/274
Braden Brown OL 6-5/310
DeQuan Everett DB 6-3/214
Romney Fuga DL 6-1/318
Preston Hadley DB 5-11/208
Braden Hansen OL 6-5/307
Reed Hornung DS 6-2/252
Uona Kaveinga LB 5-11/233
Brandon Ogletree LB 5-11/235
Joe Sampson DB 5-10/203
Riley Stephenson P 6-0/205
O'Neill Chambers WR 6-2/215