***This is the third and final in a series of blog posts written by VOA intern Alex Hodge.
Drafted two years apart, running back Jay Ajayi and defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah have made quick impacts in the National Football League and earned all-star honors.
The 25-year-old Ajayi, born in London to Nigerian parents, was named to the Pro Bowl in 2016, one year after he was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the NFL Draft.
Ajayi blasted onto the NFL scene in 2016, when he rushed for over 200 yards in back to back games. He was the fourth player to accomplish this feat, joining the ranks of Hall of Famers O.J Simpson, Earl Campbell and former Pro Bowler Ricky Williams.
In 2017, the Dolphins traded Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles, a team already featuring a high-powered offense.
Ajayi became a valuable contributor and helped lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win.
While Jay Ajayi played high school football in Texas, Ghana-born Ziggy Ansah didn’t begin playing the sport until his sophomore season at Brigham Young University in Utah.
In an interview with VOA’s Peter Clottey, Ansah talked about his motivation for playing football.
Ziggy Ansah was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015, two years after he was drafted by the Detroit Lions.
The Lions are confident Ziggy will continue to improve. Earlier this year, they named him their franchise player, a designation that will earn Ansah $17.5 million in salary for the upcoming season.
With players like Ziggy Ansah and Jay Ajayi making headlines and earning big contracts, I believe the number of African born or first generation African players will continue to grow in the NFL.