“Third day dreams” didn’t disappoint for Penn State’s Anthony Zettel.
The defensive tackle and Nittany Lions’ fan favorite was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft (202nd overall) on Saturday afternoon.
Zettel, who worked his way from a redshirt freshman 2011 season to the other half of one of the best defensive line interiors in the country in 2015, exploded onto the social media scene before his final season at Penn State with a video that showed him tackling and uprooting a tree.
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The video followed the best year of his career, in which he earned All-Big Ten first-team honors and led the Nittany Lions with 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks — numbers he hoped to carry into his final year.
But Zettel’s senior season was unlike anything he could’ve imagined, as he lost his father, Terry, to cancer just hours before Penn State’s game at Beaver Stadium against the San Diego State Aztecs.
All that fall, Zettel had started in games for the Nittany Lions, and immediately after they ended he jumped in his pickup truck and made the eight-hour drive to his home in Michigan to see Terry and his family. Then, on Sunday night, he would drive back to State College to make sure he got to classes and practice.
Amid some speculation, the captain inspired his teammates, family and fans alike when he suited up and played one of the best games of his career less than a day removed from losing his father, helping Penn State to a 37-21 win over the Aztecs.
“I think everything was on point,” Zettel said two weeks later. “I was more focused than I’d ever been. I knew what I had to do. I felt like (my dad) was with me every step of the way. It felt different...
“It was an emotional little spurt there for me. But at the same time, that’s what (my dad) would have wanted. When I would come home, when he was going through chemo sessions, he was always yellin’ at me to get back to college.
“I think me not playing that game was not even in question. I’m playing that game no matter what, for him.”
After the game, he made the drive again to West Branch, Mich., to speak at his father’s funeral service on that Sunday.
Zettel was back at practice the next week and barely missed a snap for the rest of the season.
Now, the fun-loving, roundhouse-kicking freaky-athlete will be able to continue to honor both his family and the memory of his father at the next level as he attempts to make the Lions’ 53-man roster in the fall.
“He’d be really happy and proud of me,” Zettel told Detroit reporters on Saturday afternoon.
Related: “Anthony Zettel is playing for more”