For a football player, being named "Boy Born on Sunday" seems fitting for Ghana native, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. 'Kwasi, as he prefers to be called, was the Cowboys' 4th-round pick (126 overall) and will be a potential candidate for the starting free safety position.
Coming from Division II Indiana-Pennsylvania, Owusu-Ansah (shall we refer to him as AOA?) is considered a bit of a project. Nevertheless, he dominated in college.
While other players at that level have had success that has not translated well to the pro game, many think that AOA has both the talent and the intangibles to give him all the tools he needs to progress at the next level.
Let's begin this installment of "What They're Saying About..." with a quote from AOA's college coach Lou Tepper.
"Akwasi would have started and been outstanding whether he was at LSU, Virginia Tech, Colorado or Illinois — all the places I've been," Tepper said.
"He has irrefutable size, speed and strength at his position. And when you measure him against other safeties in the draft, he's in the upper echelon in those categories. There are not a lot of safeties who run under 4.4.
"His specialty play alone will give a strong foothold in the NFL."
Tepper also pointed to Owusu-Ansah's drive. "A lot of top Division II players could be on cruise control and not press to get better, but that wasn't the case with him," Tepper said. "He's got great character."
NFL analyst, Gil Brandt, on how AOA's game will translate from Division II IUP to the pros:
"It's a big jump," Brandt said. "He'll be in for a culture shock because he's not used to playing against kids that are so big, strong and fast. But he's well grounded and that goes a long way to having success."
Because he is recovering from shoulder surgery, Owusu-Ansah will miss the OTAs but will be available by training camp. Secondary coaches Dave Campo and Brett Maxie already have plans set for AOA during OTAs. Campo describes their plans:
"All mental. We're going to put in coverages. What we normally do is that we've been doing teaching sessions two days a week. We start with week one where we put in one coverage, then we work on it the next week, then we go on to another coverage and then we go right on through. The first five practices of mini-camp we'll put five coverages in. So he's actually getting the mental part of it and watching it on tape and all of that stuff. Then we go to the OTAs and then we go to the same five, and then we just keep on going.
So by the time he gets to training camp he's going to be mentally prepared. But being mentally prepared in the classroom and being prepared on the field are two different things. The guys that make it are the guys that can take it from the classroom to the field. We think he can do that, but he's got to want to go out there and get involved. It's not going to be an automatic, ‘I know Cover Eight.' Then walk out there, call everything out and start moving. I don't think it's going to be that. I hope it's that, it'd be great, but that's where we're at."
Campo on AOA's transition from CB to FS:
"If he didn’t have to do any [pre-snap calls] and we were talking about just go to center field and play football, he’d fit right now," Campo said.
"But it’s going to take a little bit of time."
Dave Campo on AOA (audio).
"This 126th pick (fourth round) that we drafted, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, the safety. I’m going to let Wade (Phillips) talk to you about the things we saw in him, but I’ll tell you about the things that I know from my own experience firsthand after interviewing and meeting him and having a firsthand report on how well he did when he got here.
He was outstanding. He really distinguished himself relative to his insight and concepts as well as basically being able to not only understand what our coaches were doing on the board with him, but to retain it and project it back."
More from Jerry Jones:
"We like his size, we like his speed and more importantly we like what we saw of his instincts," owner Jerry Jones said.
"This guy can really change directions on the run and he really plays the ball."
Jerry Jones' call to AOA during the draft.
"He’s really an impressive guy," coach Wade Phillips said.
"He’s awfully impressive for a guy coming from Division II. You don’t expect him to know a lot, but he knew a lot more than some of the other guys we interviewed."
More from Coach Phillips:
"He's such a good athlete, and he can really play corner (too)," head coach Wade Phillips said.
"I think he could play either one. He was a big fish in a small pond. He was a lot better than the guys on his college team, but that's what you want him to do. Those kinds of players have to be dominant and he showed it on his kick returns and things like that."
AOA is cool with making the switch to safety.
"I feel real comfortable. Most of the plays I made as college were at safety," Owusu-Ansah said.
"They told me to get ready to compete and it is going to be a grind."
A sit-down with AOA during the NFL Scouting Combine.
Highlights from Scout.com's Q&A with AOA:
ON VALLEY RANCH VISIT: "They definitely noticed my versatility. They knew I had potential at both (safety and corner) spots. I think it will be more at the safety position. I think my special teams ability definitely helped with the decision as well. I take special teams very seriously and it is a very important part of the game. I think that helped my draft status.
"I got to meet with all of the coaches and sit down with Jerry Jones one-on-one and talk to him. As far as the plays, each player sat down with the position coach and we would just talk football. They drew up the plays for me, I took notes and then they asked me to recite them. They asked me what I would do in certain situations."
ON HIS RETURN SKILLS: "Teams talked about it a lot. That is one of the things that helped my draft stock so much is my return ability. They tell me that I have ability and that I am talented. "I have been on the kick-off team, gunner on punt, punt return, kick return and rusher on punt earlier on in my career. I have done all aspects of special teams."
ON SHOULDER INJURY: "I dislocated my (left) shoulder in college, probably the fourth game of the season, and I played through it. I had surgery this past March. I will not be ready physically for rookie minicamp. I will probably be out there but there will be no contact. It will be more of a mental minicamp for me to learn. I think that is just as good."
Some highlights from his '09 team MVP season.
Ed. Note - Next in this series: What They're Saying About Sam Young