By now, Lions social media has gotten a look at what Penn State defensive lineman Anthony Zettel is capable of: walking out into the forest, finding a tree, telling that tree "Look, tree, I'm going to tackle the crap out of you," and then proceed to tackle the crap out of that tree.
It was impressive as hell, but the coaching staff at Penn State were a little less enthused.
"They were all, they weren't shocked, but they were all just like 'good thing you didn't get hurt,' because that would not have been a good story, to break my shoulder before my senior year," Zettel told reporters at Big Ten Football Media Days last year in Chicago. Nine months later in that same city, Zettel's name was called at 202nd overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Zettel freely admitted that he probably would not have tackled the tree if it wasn't dead. There's limits to what the man can do, but he doesn't know too many of those.
In an age where many athletes have become focused in one area of sports at the expense of all others, where youth athletics have strayed into the territory of specialization from an early age, Anthony Zettel remains a specimen of athletic diversity. That came from a younger age, where he was always trying out a different sport, but that drive never really faded with time.
In high school he was a pitcher and even played quarterback for a while in football. He played basketball, threw discus, shot put and ran the 100 meter dash. He wrestled for a while, and in addition to tackling trees, Zettel was known during his college football career for also training in mixed martial arts. His golf game stayed strong too.
For Anthony Zettel, it all helps him out when it comes back to football, especially when it comes to using his arms. While he can't control how his arms may be short for a defensive lineman, he can certainly control how strong they are, hence the quarterbacking and pitching and punching.
On his mixed martial arts training, Zettel says, "I think a lot of the MMA stuff allows me to use my hands better, get off blocks better. I have short arms so I have to use a lot of skillsets that a lot of other people don't have to use."
Even if it didn't come back to football, Zettel thinks that there's no need to lock in development for one sport over another.
"I have so many people come up to me, parents and stuff, who ask me what their sons can do to excel at this level and what advice I can give them, and I just think as a young person you should just get to experience the most sports you can. Having that diversity of sports, I think you don't need to specialize when you're young. You learn from each sport, from a team perspective.
"Like from wrestling, I learned toughness...but wrestling's an individual sport. So then from other sports like football and basketball I learned more of the team stuff. I think being diverse like that when you're younger, playing multiple sports, you get a skillset that you don't get if you specialize in sports. And you never know, you might be better at one sport than another...playing multiple sports, you might find your passion and your love for another sport."
The diversity in Zettel's athletics paid off. He converted to defensive tackle in college out of necessity (Penn State's sanctions forced the coaching staff to find starters at positions they didn't have enough of) and was immediately undersized. His arms were already short for football, but he nevertheless excelled and anchored the stout Nittany Lions defense for three years. Now he'll have a chance to do it again at the next level.