Last summer, Ankrah landed the football scholarship offer from James Madison before he’d ever started a varsity game, in large part, because of those tools. Early in his football career, the defensive end faced inevitable comparisons to his brother, who will be a fifth-year senior with the Cornhuskers in the fall, but Mencarini brought him along slow.
Ankrah played two seasons of junior varsity and was a backup in 2011 to Kieran Gregory and Darnell Leslie. Gregory has signed with Richmond, while Leslie currently plays at Monmouth (N.J.). Seeing his first extensive action as a senior, Ankrah tallied 37 tackles with six sacks and 17 quarterback hurries.
“Obviously, his best football days are far ahead of him,” Mencarini said. “I think that’s what JMU sees in him, this great piece of clay that needs to be molded.”
On the basketball court, each practice has represented a chance to get better, too. Early on, he struggled to handle Foringer’s offensive and defensive concepts, not because he couldn’t learn but rather he came in so far behind his teammates.
Missing a week to play in the Maryland Crab Bowl, an all-star football game, and another few days over the holiday break to attend a family gathering didn’t help, either. But Foringer has come to depend on Ankrah for a few minutes each game, and he’s produced, equaling his season high with six points twice in the past four games.
Ankrah believes the basketball experience will help him next year when he joins James Madison. Once again, he’ll be the new guy, doing his best to get up to speed in an unfamiliar system.
“I knew I was going into an environment where people were going to know more than I did,” Ankrah said. “I had to humble myself and remember that. I just tried to watch and learn as quickly as I could.”