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Sundays could be in ex-IUP star Owusu-Ansah's future

Even his name, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, makes you think the former Indiana (Pa.) cornerback and return specialist could be destined for the NFL.

The Ghanaian-born Owusu-Ansah's first name means "born on Sunday," and scouts are curious about how he might perform on NFL Sundays.

"In my mind, he's got second-round ability," IUP coach Lou Tepper said. "But he'll probably go from the third to fifth."

Because of season-ending shoulder surgery, Owusi-Ansah missed a chance to play in the annual East-West Shrine Game, which would have been a prime spotlight to showcase his speed on kickoff and punt returns and his ability to play cornerback and perhaps safety.

"He has corner speed and safety size," said Tepper of Owusi-Ansah, who has been timed as fast as 4.32 in the 40-yard dash. "I think Akwasi eventually will be an every-day player at safety. He'll be one of the fastest. At safety, he's got great speed."

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Owusu-Ansah could be one of the draft's "sleepers" after successfully recovering from the surgery in time to attend the NFL Combine, where Tepper said his former star "blew people away."

Tepper knows a thing or two about draft picks. He is the former Illinois coach who also spent plenty of time as a Division I assistant, focusing on defense. Among the players chosen in the draft from schools where Tepper was coaching were Virginia Tech defensive end Bruce Smith (first overall pick, 1985), Illinois quarterback Jeff George (first overall, 1990), Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy (second overall, 1996) and Illinois defensive end Simeon Rice (third overall, 1996).

Owusu-Ansah isn't in the same class coming out of Division II IUP, but Tepper said he is drawing plenty of NFL interest.

"Physically, he has all the tools," Tepper said. "But he's also got the character. He's never been charged with even jaywalking. When you're talking about higher-round choices, that's important. He's a bright kid."

Owusu-Ansah returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns as a senior at IUP, and his special-team skills could be his initial ticket to the NFL.

"Special teams is more about raw talent," Owusu-Ansah said. "I played running back in high school, and I returned kicks in college. Wherever I've gone, I've embraced the chance to get the ball in my hands."

Owusu-Ansah is also a playmaker on defense, intercepting eight passes and returning one for a touchdown as a junior.

"Yes, he's from a Division II program, but you can't deny the physical skills he displays," Tepper said.

To prepare for the NFL Combine, Owusu-Ansah worked out in Naples, Fla., with other draft hopefuls.

"People who have been through the process say to just enjoy it," Owusu-Ansah said. "You will only be drafted one time. Regardless of what happens, I'm going to enjoy the ride."

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