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Only Anthony Zettel Until Penn State Football 2017

The converted defensive end became a tackle, and a force to be reckoned with.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Penn State Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Zettel was one of the last holdovers of the Paterno regime at Penn State, having been drafted under the longtime staff and staying five years in the program. He was originally recruited as an offensive guard or defensive end, a four-star recruit and the fourth best player in his home state who chose the Lions in December 2010 over offers from Iowa, Michigan State, USC, Missouri, Wisconsin, and a Brady Hoke-led Michigan.

He was a steady part of the two-deep at end in his first two seasons on the field (2012 and 2013), bringing a steady pass-rush and change of pace for Larry Johnson, but it wasn’t until his redshirt junior year in 2014 that he really opened up.

Some, like yours truly, questioned then-defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s decision to move Zettel to the interior of the line, as he provided such a disruptive force in his limited time on the outside. This is why we aren’t paid to coach, but rather simply write about our team of choice on the interwebs.

Zettel came out of nowhere to have a Big Ten First Team season in 2014, logging 17 tackles for loss (third in the conference), eight sacks, and three interceptions. He was the most dominant player on defense for the Nittany Lions, and was named the conference’s defender of the week after the Rutgers game.

Zettel had less of a gaudy redshirt senior season in Happy Valley, most of which had to do with the fact that he was no longer an unknown—teams knew he could beat their offensive linemen one-on-one, which meant that he and fellow tackle Austin Johnson were often double-teamed, and that freed up Carl Nassib to have an award-winning season of his own, filled with accolades and an increased draft stock.

In addition to his on-field adaptations in 2015, Zettel also dealt with personal tragedy when he lost his father Terry to cancer the day before the Lions’ game against San Diego State—and he responded in remarkable fashion, having the best game of his senior season.

The Michigan native was eventually drafted in 2016 by his hometown Detroit Lions 202nd overall (6th round). He’s seen time in thirteen games over the last two seasons (all in his second year), notching 13 tackles and 1 sack.