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Lions’ Zettel wants to settle in before turning loose

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Anthony Zettel (69)

Allen Park — The internet offers plenty of video evidence of Anthony Zettel’s personality.

But as the rookie defensive lineman adjusts to life in the NFL and with the Lions, he’s trying to be a bit more muted, at least for now.

“I think, especially as a rookie, I want to just get to know the guys before I really let my true self out and stuff,” said Zettel, whose videos feature a solo dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” a lethal roundhouse kick to a plastic water bottle, and tackling a dead tree.

“I want to keep my head down, go to work and do what the coaches want me to do and just be the best player I can be. And then the personality and that stuff, as I get closer to the players and teammates, I think that’ll come out.”

The Lions took the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Zettel in the sixth round of this year’s draft. Even though he played defensive tackle at Penn State last year, he has experience at end, and that’s where he’s working right now. He said coaches like the weight he’s at right now and think he can play inside in sub packages.

As for the popular videos, Zettel said many of his teammates have already mentioned the tree-tackling, so he can’t really hide from those videos. But he can’t change who he is either — a self-described “chill guy” who can talk to anybody. He just realizes that it’d be smart to see what the veterans like and don’t like before becoming one of the biggest characters in the room.

“I don’t want to cross anybody the wrong way or anything,” he said.

The more Zettel talked Thursday, though, it became clear that his teammates probably don’t want to cross him either, even if he’s a rookie. Zettel is a big fan of mixed martial arts — Georges St-Pierre is his favorite fighter — and trained in an MMA gym for much of his college career.

Zettel said he never thought about a career in MMA because his goal was to play in the NFL, but he plans to train by kickboxing, something he said will help with his hips for pass rushing as well as hand-eye coordination.

And anyone who’s seen the roundhouse kick video can see that Zettel has some MMA skills.

“That was a little more impressive than tackling a dead tree,” he said.

Now, the Lions hope that his athleticism can transfer to the NFL.