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Penn State football’s Anthony Zettel driven by his father’s toughness

The Intimidator wore boxing gloves, a black tank top and tattoos down his left arm.

He pounded the blocking pads in front of him, sharp pops echoing through the gym.

Whap! Whap! Whap!

Anthony Zettel, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound Penn State football player, threw one round of fists after another, no teammates or coaches around. He didn’t smile. He didn’t talk. He paced and punched.

Was Zettel thinking about the man then? The one who gave him life and then shaped and expanded it in ways he could have never imagined?

Those practice punches eventually turned to kicks one evening last month. The kind of high, snapping kicks that defied the conventional agility of a lineman.

Was his hero inspiring and driving him then?

These mixed martial arts workouts are one ingredient to making Zettel a unique defensive tackle talent. (He was the only lineman ranked among the national leaders in sacks and interceptions.)

And maybe unique off the field, too. (He tackles trees, hits holes-in-one and imitates Big Foot on national TV.)

He’s a most quirky intimidator, for sure.

He’s growing into a team leader, social media magnet and crucial All-American candidate this fall in Penn State’s continued recovery from NCAA sanctions.

And he owes much of that to the powerful inspiration back home in a small Michigan town.


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