MOBILE, Ala. _ A pair of defensive ends with similar backgrounds and similar situations are hoping to catch the eyes of NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl here this week.
Both Margus Hunt of Southern Methodist and Ezekiel Ansah of Brigham Young came not only to America, but also to football by rather unconventional means.
Hunt, who is on the North squad for the Senior Bowl, has been playing football for four years after coming to SMU to throw the discus and shotput, only to find that the Mustangs had folded their men’s track program.
Ansah, a native of Ghana, makes Hunt look like a seasoned veteran in terms of gridiron experience, as he came to the United States in 2010 to run track. But with his size (6-6, 270) and athletic skills, he walked onto the Cougars football team and eventually earned a starting spot.
For Hunt, who like Tennessee Titans tackle Michael Roos is from Estonia, he said learning the game was the toughest part of football for him.
“First, it was just the language barrier itself, learning the language of the defense,” Hunt, who measured 6-8, 277, said. “Once I got that down, the schemes themselves and everything just flowed and it wasn't a big deal. The physical part picked up as the games went along.”
Ansah has been compared to New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul in terms of skill and a foreign background that made him a latecomer to football. He has the type of size and speed that cannot be taught, somewhat like former Titan Jevon Kearse. But in terms of technique and knowing the game, Ansah is still very raw.
Draft analyst Tony Pauline says both players are likely to need some time before the payoff comes for whatever team drafts them.
“Hunt shows flashes of brilliance, as does Ansah but you've got to get them (to show it) on a consistent basis,” Pauline said. “I think Hunt is further along than Ansah. Ansah is supposed to have the speed, and he's got the body type to get bigger. But they are both probably two or three years away.”
Both players are soaking up as much as they can this week at the Senior Bowl practices.
“There's still so much to learn. I have to pick it up faster. I feel I've learned so much in the last three days,” Hunt said.
Ansah agreed, saying, ““I just try to learn and try to do better and work hard. I'm learning how to relate to the coaches. You don't want to make any mistakes. It's really a great competition and I really like it.”
The Titans are still in need of pass rush help, and some in the front office are believed to like Hunt.
Hunt has piqued the interest of some in the Titans front office and Ansah would appear to be on Tennessee’s radar as well.