When Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah was coming out of BYU for the 2013 NFL draft, there were whispers about his age and whether he was older than he claimed to be. The school listed him as being born May 29, 1989, and that birth date came to be accepted as authentic by the NFL and the Detroit Lions, who drafted him in Round 1.
There might be more questions about what Ansah’s age is — and could it be affecting contract negotiations between the defensive end and the Lions?
The Ghana News Agency, the country’s official state-run news agency, recently ran a story about Ansah, the NFL’s first Ghananian to be drafted into the league. GNA spoke with Ansah about his “Ezekiel Ansah Foundation,” which seeks to promote young athletes to display their athletic skills in his native country, and listed his age as 29. According to the 5-29-89 birthdate accepted by the NFL and listed on the Lions’ official roster, Ansah would be 27 now and wouldn’t turn 28 for another few weeks.
Hat tip to Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett for first noticing the discrepancy.
Random, but several news stories from Ghana on Lions DE Ziggy Ansah's foundation list him as age 29. The Lions officially list him as 27
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) May 9, 2017
Is it possible the GNA is in error here? Of course. Editorial errors are common in the business, and it’s possible that the agency has incorrectly reported Ansah’s age for some time. But we also must note that it being a state-run agency, the GNA likely would have easier access to finding Ansah’s birth records for verification.
We reached out to Ansah’s agent, Frank Bauer, for comment on this story. He has not yet responded. We also have sought further clarification from the Lions on the matter. In this published report at mlive.com, the Lions denied Ansah is 29 said they believe they have Ansah’s correct birth date.
Bauer, Ansah and the Lions are in negotiations — although it’s unclear how active they are at this moment — for a new long-term deal, as Ansah’s contract is entering its final year. Is it possible the Lions have reason to hesitate given that they might not know Ansah’s true birth date?
Athletes lying about their age is nothing new. It has happened for years, from the crazy story about Danny Almonte in the Little League World Series years ago, claiming to be 12 when he was 14, to former Major Leaguers such as Rafael Furcal and Miguel Tejada, who were found to have concealed their real ages when they were coming up through the low levels of baseball. Heck, even former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy admitted to shaving off three years from his age when he first interviewed for the job, fessing up years later.
If the Lions were told that their standout pass rusher was closer to 30, and thus perhaps a year (or two) closer to a typical retirement age, would they be less inclined to offer more years and more money on their next deal? That’s why this is worth investigating.
Ansah has 32 sacks over four years in the NFL (59 games) but is coming off a disappointing 2016 season in which he collected only two in 13 games. Due to be a free agent following the 2017 season, Ansah said this week that he’s anxious and excited to put last season behind him and perhaps cash in the way his friend and former teammate, Ndamukong Suh, did a few years back when the Lions failed to place the franchise tag on him.
For now, the contract is not an issue for Ansah, he said.
“I don’t pay attention to that at all,” he said. “I know I’m still under contract. I’ll be here 2017 and like I said, the focus for this year is to win a championship, first of all try to get into the playoffs and then after that it is what it is. But the goal is to win a championship.”
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