ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He has been filmed busting out dance moves to "Thriller" and tackling a dead tree in the woods. But Anthony Zettel’s most impressive video is one that was filmed in a locker room.
It showed his athleticism and offered a glimpse of his flexibility. And it’s his favorite video of himself, too, not because it shows him doing something completely out there, but because it demonstrates an improvement in his skills.
Zettel roundhouse kicked a water bottle being held in the air by a teammate in the Penn State locker room, almost sending the water bottle into the face of another teammate.
The video, taken last year, shows off the results of Zettel’s offseason training, which helped him develop as a football player. For the past four years, he has spent time training with Bruce Lombard, a professional MMA and Muay Thai coach based in State College, Pennsylvania.
Zettel and Lombard met when Lombard was training one of Penn State’s strength and conditioning coaches, and the two hit it off. Now, Zettel considers Lombard a close friend as well as an offseason conditioning coach.
“Kickboxing really opens up your hips and allows you to use your power and transfer energy,” Zettel said. “So I think it’s good. Plus, the hand-eye coordination. But football is my number one go-to and then the kickboxing stuff is just for conditioning to help me in football.”
Zettel said he never has considered trying to fight professionally in MMA -- at least not until his football career is over. It’s a smart move, too, since the Detroit Lions invested a sixth-round pick in Zettel out of Penn State and have glaring needs at defensive end, which Zettel can help with.
But Zettel has always been interested in mixed martial arts -- he used to buy the UFC fights on pay-per-view when he was a kid and then invite all his friends over to watch. And he always has liked Georges St. Pierre, the Canadian-born semi-retired fighter who is one of the most well-known UFC fighters in history and a former welterweight champion.
“I know he’s not my weight class, but he’s a real technician, gets after it, very humble,” Zettel said. “I think that’s what I like about him the most. At times you get guys that are bigmouths and stuff, but GSP is a real humble guy that got after it and did things the right way.”
Zettel appears to be trying to incorporate part of St. Pierre’s approach into his own approach to the NFL. Despite his big personality, Zettel said he is going to hold back a little bit in the locker room to get a feel for the veterans.
Then, as he gets comfortable, he’ll get back to doing things that show who he is.
“As a rookie, I want to just get to know the guys before I really let my true self out,” Zettel said. “Just keep my head down and go to work and do what the coaches want me to do and just be the best player I can be.”
Some of that will happen because of the MMA training. He sees the value in it -- not only as a fight fan but as a football player.
“Opening up your hips allows you to transfer energy from the ground up, just like you will in a pass-rush technique and stuff,” Zettel said. “Then also hand-eye coordination might be the biggest thing just because in the NFL and on the O-line, D-line, it’s a giant hand battle.
“So getting your hands on people, being violent really is just the biggest thing, being able to use your body in space.”