Anthony Zettel was an All-B1G talent last season and pulled off the rare hat trick by leading Penn State in sacks (eight), tackles-for-loss (17) and interceptions (three).
He’s arguably the top player on this defense. And he should once again play a crucial role on a unit that finished No. 3 in the nation by allowing just 100.5 rushing yards per game.
Zettel is probably someone you’ve already heard of, but here at the Big Ten blog we wanted to get to know him a little better.
Josh Moyer: I remember talking to a former teammate of yours, John Urschel, and he said no one could beat him at Connect Four. What game or talent do you have in which you could beat anyone on this team?
Anthony Zettel: I’m pretty good at Fight Night Round 4, the video game, and I don’t lose at that really, ever. And Mario Kart on N64, I’m pretty good at that. So that’s video game-wise. Overall, I think I’m pretty good at every sport. And, right now, I’d say I’m the best golfer. In the summer, I’m playing like plus-8. But that’s the end of the summer. Right now, I’m like plus-10 or plus-12.
JM: Let me address some of the crazy “legends” I’ve heard about you. Your defensive coordinator told me you can drive the ball over 300 yards and throw a football 75 yards. That true?
AZ: Yeah. And I hit well over 300 ... it’s just not accurate. Some days, I can hit them decently and accurate. But definitely, every time, it’s going over 300.
JM: Is there anything we don’t know about? Can you kick a ball 50 yards or throw a baseball 100 mph or something?
AZ: I can’t kick it, but I can throw a baseball pretty hard – probably like 93 mph. But it’s not accurate.
JM: So you’re basically like "Wild Thing" from Major League?
AZ: [Laughs] Yeah. In high school, when I played my freshman year, I’d either throw a no-hitter or I’d just completely mess up, get flustered and walk 10 people. That’s where I struggled at baseball. The aggressive, go-at-it strategy doesn’t work in baseball. It’s a lot of strategy and calmness.
JM: So I take it that’s why you always wanted to be a defensive tackle – because you don’t have to think as much?
AZ: You don’t have to think, yup. It’s not a thinking game as much as you’re just reacting. That’s why I liked shot put and discus in high school, too, because I can just kind of get wild and don’t have to think about technique so much. I can just get pumped up and throw.
JM: Let’s switch it up a little bit. You know how important history and tradition are at Penn State so, tomorrow, construction begins on a Mount Rushmore of PSU football greats. You get to decide the four greats who are honored. Who you picking?
AZ: Oh man … you’ve got to pick [John] Cappelletti because he’s the Heisman winner. I’m going to have to put [Michael] Mauti in there because he’s one of the leading guys who held Penn State together during the toughest time. I’m going to put Coach Paterno in there and I’m also going to put … geez … there’s so many good players. [Pauses] Probably Todd Blackledge, just because he was the quarterback for the national championship team. [Pauses] No – I’d put Spider [equipment manager Brad Caldwell] in as the fourth one. For sure.
JM: One more hypothetical for you, Anthony. If you were able to invite any two people to dinner – past or present – who would you choose?
AZ: Probably Michael Murphy as one. [Ed note: He was a PSU grad who sacrificed himself to save his fellow soldiers. The film “Lone Survivor” covered his heroics.] I think he’s one of the biggest unnamed heroes. I have a lot of respect for the military in general, and the Navy SEALs are just the top of the top. What he did over there to try to save everybody’s life is just heroic. And I heard a lot of stories about him when he went to school here and his training methods. He was just the type of guy everyone dreams of being. He was just a good dude.
And probably another one – man, there’s so many good people – Chris Farley. Just because he’s absolutely hilarious.
JM: And what will you three be eating at this dinner?
AZ: I’m going to have to say lobster and crab legs, with some shrimp cocktails and some filet mignon.
JM: I hope you’d save a seat for me. Anyway, let’s stick with the topic of food. For the Big Ten fans who come to PSU this fall, what places would you say they have to visit?
AZ: That’s tough. We go to the Waffle Shop [at Blue Course Drive] all the time for breakfast. We go there at least four times a week. Dinner-wise, I’d have to say Kelly’s or Happy Valley Brewing.
JM: I’ve heard before about your spot-on velociraptor impression. So I have to ask: What is the weirdest thing about you?
AZ: I have a very, very imaginative mind. I love movies like "Avatar" – that’s my favorite movie – and … I watched that three times; that was amazing. My imagination is very large. And I’m very open, too, so I don’t have any secrets. Sometimes, people think that's weird because I'll tell some dumb stories and experiences. And I’m a big believer in ghosts and aliens and all that stuff.
JM: You were the breakout player for Penn State last season. So I feel like you’re pretty qualified to answer this final question: Who’s going to be the breakout guy this year?
AZ: If you guys consider Austin Johnson – well, I think everyone knows already how good he is. But if there’s one guy that no one really knows about that’s going to break out, it’s probably [defensive end] Carl Nassib. He’s a phenomenal athlete, big and strong, and understands the game of football. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do this year.