The reason I think I love college football so much is because, more than any other sport, it lets personalities shine through. As college athletes, they don’t need to be as cognizant of their image as professionals (sometimes to a fault) and with 100+ players on each team, there are more chances than there are in college basketball for a dynamic personality to exist. Sadly, the sport’s best players are usually some of its most bland and sanitized (*cough*Mariota*cough*), because they know that this is what they need to expect when they get to the NFL.
However, these two lines – talent and personality – will occasionally intersect. This is what makes Anthony Zettel such a fun football player/dude. Not only is he a bloodthirsty, unblockable monster along Penn State’s defensive line, but he is just wired in a different way than other great college athletes in that he lets his gigantic, lovable personality shine through in a variety of ways. Oftentimes this is done through the context with which we know Zettel the athlete: as a complete badass.
So in an emergency roundtable, several of our staff members decided to debate our favorite Zettel moments, both on and off the field, because he is the best. Feel free to discuss/debate in the comment section. Or don't. You have the choice to do whatever you want.
Cari: It's Close To Midnight And Anthony Zettel Is Dancing To Thriller
Before he was a starter, before he even sniffed a down on the field as a Penn Stater--Anthony Zettel was testing the limits of campus sanity in Hartranft Hall as he was redshirting in 2011.
We should have known then what was to come. We were none the wiser. Zettel has since built on his legend, to great effect--but we all know where it started. Back in Pollock Halls, with a Michael Jackson Halloween classic.
Jared: Anthony Zettel Plays Pass Defense, Gets A Pick-6 Against Ohio State In 2014
Anthony Zettel has several memorable moments since joining Penn State in 2011, but there is one that will live in infamy: his unbelievable pick-six that nearly fueled one of the most improbable come-from-behind upset victories in program history.
After spotting the Buckeyes a 17-point lead in the first half, it seemed all but inevitable that the eventual national champions would blow the game wide open by the end of the third quarter. While fans were figuring out a specific deficit to justify an early departure from Beaver Stadium to beat traffic, Zettel completely changed the tone of the game. He read J.T. Barrett’s eyes perfectly, stepped in front of the pass and out-sprinted all of the insane athletes that make up the Buckeyes offense to completely shift the momentum of the game. The listless crowd suddenly became ferocious, and the freshly fired-up team fought all the way back before ultimately falling in double-overtime.
We can all giggle at Vines of Zettel tackling trees, imitating the Karate Kid and powerlifting Otto’s after the Blue-White Game (I’m sure that happened), but moments like his pick-six are what will make Zettel a Penn State legend long after he plays his last game in the blue and white.
Matt: Anthony Zettel Plays Paintball Without A Shirt On Because Pain Does Not Exist In His Mind
With the recent tackling of trees, and roundhouse water bottle kicks, it makes sense many of you have forgotten what is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of Anthony Zettel's lovable insanity. Let us go back to August of 2012, and Bill O'Brien's first camp with Penn State. As BOB sought to bring together a team that had been through more than any other in college football history, he put together a team bonding afternoon of paintball.
Now, I've never played paintball, but I know enough to know that the various protective gear they suggest you wear is probably helpful. Well, West Branch, Michigan's favorite son not only passed on the safety equipment, he went a step further and played without a shirt. The results, were....well they were exactly what you'd expect.
This is the after math of team Paintball lmaooo, big Z is a warrior! pic.twitter.com/3iAwNPXK— Ace Boogie (@PSU_Kiley2) August 14, 2012
It may have been but the first in a series of amazing Anthony Zettel moments, but nothing tops it.
Dan: Freshman Anthony Zettel Was A Horrifying Football Player, Too
The 2012 Navy game was an important one for Penn State, as the team had dropped the first two games of the Bill O'Brien era. It was not until the second half that the decision was no longer in doubt, at which point O'Brien was finally able to let the backups get some playing time. Concerns already existed about the depth of the Penn State roster, and this was a first look at how things could play out after the exit of some key players.
Enter Anthony Zettel. A backup freshman defensive end at this point, Zettel saw the field for the final two possessions of the game. In that time, he had six total tackles and two sacks, seemingly making every play down the stretch, including stuffing Navy for a no gain on a 4th-and-3. Yes, it was a blow out win over a middling program, but the program was at its most vulnerable at this time. A team that badly needed a reminder that it had talent in different places got a glimpse of how the program could survive the sanctions in the form of Zettel.
Polak: Anthony Zettel Did A Dang Spin Kick And Struck A Bottle
I'm not sure I've ever been as surprised as I was watching this video. I figured I was just going to watch Anthony Zettel dancing like a fool* for 20 seconds or so, and maybe see someone who can actually dance jump in and show him how it's done. Well, you can imagine my surprise when, out of nowhere, Zettel leaped into the air and pulled off a spinning roundhouse kick of a water bottle held at about his eye level.
Pick sixes, tree tackles, and a flawless dorm-hallway execution of Thriller are all fantastic moments in Zettel's years at Penn State, but nothing tops this. This video gives us a perfect look at who Anthony Zettel is as a man and as a football player. While his dancing may not be of the highest quality, it is light, nimble and precise, much like his movements on the field. However, when he zeroes in on his intended target (the water bottle), he attacks with the ferocity of a mountain lion hunting a deer separated from its family.
Not only does this video encompass what it means to be Anthony Zettel, but the reaction elicited from Saquon Barkley gives us a sneak peek at what Big Ten quarterbacks will be feeling this fall.
*Anthony, I didn't mean to imply that you're not the best at something, please don't kill me.
Bill: Anthony Zettel Tackled A Dang Tree Straight Out Of The Ground
You all know of my love of professional wrestling by now. One of the moves that is the most beloved in the fake sport is a well-executed spear. It's a really good, devastating looking move that a lot of guys pull out, but the best ones are oftentimes done by ex-football players, such as Bill Goldberg and Joe Anoa'i, who is more commonly known as Roman Reigns. This is because these men have an inherent sense of what good form looks like when you tackle a man: head to your chin, drive your shoulder into their abdomen, explode towards them and wrap your arms around them as you take them to ground.
This pristine form was on display earlier this summer when Anthony Zettel messed around and tackled a tree straight out of the ground. Let's go through a brief list of the things that had to have occurred to get to the point where Zettel took the tree out of the ground:
- Zettel had to have been on a walk with Jordan Dudas
- The two needed to have seen a tree that, for some reason, was not as firmly entrenched in the ground as most things that grow out of the ground
- Zettel had to have turned to Dudas and gone "hey, I want to try and tackle this tree"
- Dudas had to have said "ok, I will record it"
Someone call Vince McMahon, because Zettel would have the best spear in company history.
NEW ADDITION-- Polak: Anthony Zettel Imitates a Dying Pig and a Velociraptor Because He's Insane
ESPN videos are the worst, and won't successfully embed here, so visit this fanshot to see the video.
I mean..I really don't have words anymore. I almost created a tab for our website titled "Anthony Zettel" after this one, and I still might. He's just the best, guys. Just give him the Piesman now.