Penn State's Zettel mixes size and athleticism
Anthony Zettel never was going anywhere, which was good news for Penn State.
The defensive tackle this week said he was “tempted” to leave for the NFL after his junior season, “but I thought in the grand scheme of everything I wanted to get my degree,” he said. “There were things I could work at that could put me at a different level next year. I think as a team we could be pretty good, too.”
Zettel said he wants to improve his speed and quickness and refine his technique. That's important “because I'm undersized,” he said.
At 6-foot-4, 280 pounds, he is on the small side for his position. Nevertheless, he blossomed last season after switching from defensive end, where he played the previous two seasons as part of a rotation.
“I don't want to get too big where I lose mobility,” he said. “I've gotta stay quick.”
That shouldn't be a problem.
“He's one of the more interesting athletes I've ever been around,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “You ask the guys who's the best golfer (on the team), they say Anthony Zettel. You ask them to come up with the five best basketball players, they say Anthony Zettel. Go down to the weight room and watch them work out, he does a 360-degree round-house, spinning jump kick on the heavy bag, and makes it look effortless.
“He's got tremendous quickness and explosion. Really strong. He's got great instincts and understands the game. He's one of those unique athletes you don't see very often. He's different. He's unique.”
Zettel, who will be a fifth-year senior, said he is aiming for All-America honors after being named first-team All Big Ten. He accounted for 17 tackles for losses, eight sacks and a team-high three interceptions, one of which he returned 40 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State.
“That's kind of a strange hat trick right there,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said during preparations for last season's Pinstripe Bowl.
Zettel doubled at running back at his Michigan high school. A pitcher for the baseball team, his fastball was clocked at 92 mph. He also played basketball, was state champion in the shot put and threw the javelin.
He is reputed to have hit a golf ball 375 yards and throw a football nearly 80 yards.
“He is the weirdest athlete I've ever seen, but he's one of the best ones I've ver seen,” former Nittany Lions linebacker Mike Hull said before the bowl game at Yankee Stadium. “He doesn't look like he's that great at everything, but he's so good at basketball and good at baseball. He's good at whatever he does.”
Zettel, said Hull, “just blows people out of the water.”
The website nfldraftscout.com ranks Zettel third out of 165 defensive tackles in the 2016 NFL Draft.